“Oh my gosh she’s been bit.” Tears streamed down Sandra’s face. Robby rushed forward with the first aid kit. Susie was still crying, huge crocodile tears.
“Mom, here.” He frantically shoved the first aid kit into her hands. “Do something.” Robby’s voice was frantic. He spun around. “Alex, go find your dad!” Alex wiped tears from his own eyes and ran out the door to find his father.
“Robby I…it was a copperhead. I killed it but she needs the antivenom. There’s nothing…” Sandra put a hand over her mouth as if not finishing the sentence would change the outcome for her daughter.
“Mom! It’s Susie. You have to try!” Robby hugged Sandra tight and moved to his sister’s side to hold her hand. “You have to try, mom.” He clearly wasn’t accepting the fact that there was nothing to help her. Robby’s pleading spurred Sandra into action. He was right, she could try.
“Okay Robby, get me some of the boiling water from the stove. Be careful.” Robby nodded and ran to the stove where the water for the rabbit stew was heating. Susie’s crying was starting to subside and she struggled to sit up.
“Mommy, why are you crying?” Sandra gently put a hand against Susie’s shoulder to push her back down.
“It’s okay Susie. Mommy has to fix your bite. Just lie still a little while longer.” Sandra smoothed Susie’s hair and tried to smile reassuringly. “We can try a tourniquet, Robby. And maybe I can cut an X and suck the poison out. I heard that can help.”
Sandra stepped toward Susie’s leg again. She took her knife and cut a strip from the quilt that was still partially wrapped around Susie. She tied it tightly around Susie’s upper thigh, higher than the bite on her calf. She silently prayed it would help slow the poison from moving through her bloodstream and give them more time.
Robby brought the water and Sandra dipped the knife into the boiling water and held it there to sterilize it. She glanced again at the wound, it was small, but starting to swell and turning red. She felt panic rising at the thought of her child dying from a snake bite.
“Robby bring me one of the cups from that cupboard on the wall. I need something to spit this poison into.” Robby brought the cup. Sandra put one hand on the side of the bite and hovered her knife over the wound and tried to steel herself so she could cut her little girl to save her life. Just then Jacob burst through the door with Alex. Jacob was holding two rabbits in one hand and his gun in the other.
“Stop! Sandra, wait!” Sandra turned abruptly and looked at him.
“It’s a copperhead bite…I was going to cut it and then suck the poison out. I don’t know what else to do.” Jacob handed the rabbits and gun to Alex.
“Alex told me about the snake. But that’s a myth. You can’t suck the poison out, even if you can find it. Cutting it risks infection. Let me see it.” Jacob moved to Susie’s side. Sandra stepped back as Jacob bent to inspect the wound. He looked a moment and then immediately pulled the tourniquet loose with one hand.
“What are you doing? That slows the poison!” Sandra tried to push Jacob out of the way so she could redo the tourniquet.
“Sandra! Wait.” Jacob grabbed her hands and held them. “A tourniquet for a snake bite is not helpful. It’s better to keep the bite lower than the heart without a tourniquet. But Sandra, it’s not a snakebite. Look at it again. There’s only one puncture mark. She’s just been stung Sandra, not bitten.” Sandra looked at him in disbelief.
“What? But I killed the snake myself, it was a copperhead. It was right in front of her” She moved to Susie’s side and inspected the wound. Looking closely and without the intense panic she’d felt until just moments ago, she could see Jacob was right.
There was only one puncture wound and she could see a tiny black spec, right in the center. “Oh my God. I almost cut her.” Sandra felt like she was going to pass out, she swayed. Jacob put an arm around her waist to steady her.
“It’s okay. She’s okay.” As Jacob spoke he pulled his wallet from his pocket and took out a credit card. “Sit Sandra. I got this.” Sandra nodded and sank onto the couch. “Alex go to creek and bring some mud.” Alex nodded and headed back out the door. “Is she allergic?” Sandra shook her head.
“No, thank God.” Sandra answered. Jacob nodded.
“Then we’re good.” Jacob said. With a careful swipe of the credit card across Sandra’s calf, Jacob pulled the stinger from the angry red wound. “I got it out, I think. No baking soda, so we’ll mud it and let it dry, then scrape it off in case I missed a piece. She’ll be okay in a bit. A little sore and itchy tomorrow maybe. Do you have Benadryl in your kit?”
“Yes.” Sandra unzipped the first aid kit and took out the small bottle of children’s liquid Benadryl. “I feel so foolish. I almost cut her leg.” Sandra stood and kissed Susie on the forehead. “You can sit up now honey. Here drink this.” She handed Susie the small plastic dosing cup and watched as she drank it down.
“Yum, bubble gum!” Susie exclaimed licking her lips. Sandra and Jacob both laughed. Alex came through the door with a dripping handful of mud. Jacob spread the thick wet mud over the wound.
“There ya go kiddo. You’ll be right as rain in no time.” Jacob ruffled Susie’s hair with his clean hand.
“Thank you.” Susie smiled at Jacob. “Mom, can I get off the table, now?”
“Yes, yes.” Sandra laughed again so relieved that her little girl was going to be okay.
“I’ll help you Susie.” Robby stepped up and lifted his little sister down from the table. He hugged her tight as he set her down. “I’m so glad you’re okay, Susie.”
“Boys, let’s go get these rabbits cleaned for the stew.” Jacob retrieved the rabbits from where he’d dropped them when he came in and handed them to Alex.
“While you’re doing that, Susie and I will boil the cattail roots and herbs for the stew. We’ll have a good dinner tonight.” Jacob nodded and smiled.
“Yes Ma’am, sounds tasty.” Jacob winked at her. The boys and Jacob headed out the door and Sandra cleaned up the mess she had shoved off the table. As she picked up her bag to put the collapsible shovel back in her pack, she realized she still had the dead snake too.
“Susie, stay here. I forgot to tell Jacob something. I’ll be right back.” Sandra went outside and found Jacob and the boys near the back of the cabin. “Jacob? Can we eat this too?” She held up the dead snake from her bag.
“We could if we really needed to I guess. Not the head of course. But it’s small, not much meat on it. Snakes are flaky, with a texture kind of like fish but not the strong taste. Unless you really want to eat it, I think we’ll be good with the stew.” Sandra nodded.
“Okay, works for me. This thing gives me the creeps anyhow. Such a close call.” Sandra handed the snake and its head over to Jacob. “Can you dispose of it for me?” Jacob nodded.
“Sure thing.” Sandra smiled at him and turned to go back into the house and then turned back. “Jacob?” he turned to look at her again. “Thank you for your help with Susie. Your calm head made all the difference.” Jacob nodded.
“My pleasure. No problem. I’m just glad everything turned out okay.” Sandra nodded and headed back into the cabin. Sandra sat at the table with Susie. First, she scraped the mud from Susie’s leg and then cleaned it with an antibacterial wipe. It already looked better, still slightly swollen but not as red. While Susie played with the checkers,
Sandra washed the cattail pieces she’d cut, then soaked them in cold water to remove the excess starch. Sandra was adding the pieces to the boiling water as Jacob and the boys came in with the rabbits freshly cleaned.
Sandra had found a cast iron pan in the cupboard which she used to brown the pieces of rabbit along with some more of the herbs she’d found in the garden. She then poured the cattail stock over the pieces and left it to cook down.
“Won’t be long now.” she called over her shoulder to the boys who were once again setting up a game of checkers. Robby looked up, grinned, and rubbed his stomach to signal he was hungry. “About 40 minutes till dinner boys. I’m going to take a look around outside. Keep an eye on your sister, Robby?” Robby nodded.
“Sure mom. Come on Susie, sit here by me.” Robby slid over on his chair and made room for Susie to sit beside him.
“Thanks Robby”. Sandra grabbed her now empty bag from the floor near the table and headed outside to see what she could find before darkness fell. She nodded to Jacob who was just outside the door on the porch cleaning his gun. “Going to see what I can find that we can use.” Jacob nodded and kept working. Sandra headed back toward the back of the cabin to see what she could find that was usable.
Before long, she located an old window screen the size of the front cabin window, half-buried in the weeds. She picked it up and brushed the dirt off. It would make the perfect tray to dehydrate some more of the herbs from the abandoned garden she and Susie had found earlier. Tomorrow she’d lay herbs out on the screen and let the sun dry them. Sandra gathered some wild edibles, including wood sorrel, firewood, plantain, chickweed, and chicory. She went back to the garden to gather more herbs and then headed back inside to finish dinner.
After dinner, Robby and Alex went out and rinsed the cups and bowls in the creek water, then rinsed them with a bit of bottled water and put them back in the makeshift cupboard where they’d found them. They went out back out together to take the horse to the creek for a drink and let him graze a bit on some longer grass not far from the cabin.
Jacob brought the saddle bags in and he and Sandra sat on the couch, and went through all the supplies in the backpacks as well and sorted them so every pack had some water, food, and other critical supplies in case any of them were separated. Susie was playing at the table stacking the checkers into towers. The boys came back in just as Jacob and Sandra finished repacking the supplies.
“We tied unsaddled the horse and tied him again to the tree with some of the paracord mom so he can move around a little more than before.” Sandra nodded and smiled.
“Good thinking, Robby. Maybe tomorrow the two of you can walk him out to the field to graze a bit too. We need to make sure he eats enough before we get on the road again.”
“Sure mom. We can do that.” Robby glanced at Alex. “One more game of checkers, Alex?” he grinned when Alex nodded. The two boys went over to the table and bribed Susie to give up the checkers in exchange for a couple cool rocks they’d found by the creek. Before long, Susie came over and crawled up on her mom’s lap with a yawn. Sandra glanced at Jacob and he winked.
“Looks like someone’s ready for bed.” Sandra said.
“Me too, mom” Susie mumbled. Sandra carried Susie to the bed and lay down with her.
“Okay you boys, to sleep with you after you finish that game. Morning comes early. You boys will need to help Sandra with breakfast chores so I can catch a few hours’ sleep” Jacob reminded the boys as he headed outside to the porch to take watch for the night.
Sandra woke with a start near dawn. She’d been dreaming of the snake attacking Susie, only in her dream the snake had bit Susie repeatedly. She rubbed her eyes. There’d be no more sleep after that nightmare.
She got up to use the toilet in the corner, and then went to relieve Jacob so he could try to get some sleep. If they were leaving the cabin soon, she’d have to decide whether or not to tell Jacob she had a bug out location.
Born and raised in NE Ohio, with early memories that include grandpa teaching her to bait a hook and watching her mom, aunts, and grandmothers garden, sew, and can food, Megan is a true farm girl at heart.
For Megan, the 2003 blackout, the events of 911, and the increasing frequency of natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina, spurred a desire to be more prepared. Soon to be living off-grid, this mother of four and grandmother of ten is learning everything she can about preparedness, survival, and homesteading.