Snake Bites and Turpentine

[imgbelt img=Copperhead.jpeg]There are all kinds of folk remedies. One saved my father’s life. It’s a story that involves a copperhead snake and turpentine.


Big Ed

Buchanan County, Virginia.
Well, I thought while I am here, I will smooth the dirt out and pack it down, and make a place to set a trap. When I stuck my left hand back in the hole something stuck hard. My hand was bleeding and burning real bad.

Now, just to think how foolish a boy can be, I thought the groundhog had bitten me. So, I thought, I will carry rocks and stop up the hole and tomorrow Frank and I will come and dig him out. I carried a few rocks but my tongue began getting stiff and swollen. My hand and arm were swelling. The two small holes in my hand were oozing black blood.

I tried to unbutton my shirtsleeve but I could not. I started walking toward the house but I kept staggering and falling down like a drunken man. All I could see was a blur. 

I got close enough to see the house and I tried to holler out for help but I could not. My tongue was so swollen it was choking me to death. My legs gave way. I fell and could not get up. I knew I would not make it.

Rose had come hunting for me. She carried and dragged me to the yard. Rose knew it was a bad snakebite but did not know what to do—no phone, no car, no neighbors close by, no doctors within miles. The only sound I remember was my sister Rose crying and praying—my heart was pounding and fluttering like it would tear out of my body. I went into shock or a coma.

My fate was in the hands of Rose, the good Lord — and turpentine (obtained by the distillation of resin obtained from pine trees). 

I’d always wondered what plans the good Lord had for me—why he did not just let me go away and save my family the agony they went through for the next four days. But on day four, the strong smell of turpentine woke me up. Rose was by my bed. She was the first to notice my eyes were open and I was looking at empty bottles of turpentine on the floor. She began to cry. My hand was in a pail of cold water laced with the home remedy. She said that she changed the water often and poured in turpentine each time.

My family was all there. I could hear them talk. I heard them say, “He may be a cripple. The poison may settle in his joints or in his brain, but thank God he is alive.”

I told Frank where it happened. He took his rifle and found the place. He said that he found a very large copperhead snake coiled up on the stump sticking out her ole black tongue.

She would bite no more.


Old-Time Home Remedies

Freckle Paste – Take a teacupful of sour milk; scrape into it a quantity of horseradish; let it stand for several hours; strain well, and apply with a camelhair brush 2 or 3 times daily.