by Beverly Ewart
The only thing preventing me from picking up a snake these days is the thought of the tetanus shot. Used to be I could pick up a snake as quickly and easily as anybody – but not anymore. Not since the tetanus shot. I'm not afraid of snakes, but the thought of the tetanus shot gives me great panic and anxiety.
I have a dear friend who feels great panic and anxiety about snakes, believe it or not, yet she is cool as snakes about shots and any other various and sundry medical procedures. When we walk together she always asks that I warn her if I see a snake, and I always hope secretly that I will see a snake. She thinks that snakes are attracted to her, since she loathes them, and I hope they are – since we walk together fairly
regularly. I think snakes are loathe to come near me, since they know I am attracted to them. They seem to be like cats in that regard.
In fact, the last time we walked together – sure enough – we saw a snake! My friend heard it first (how you hear a snake is beyond me – I guess you hear what you are listening for). She reacted by squeaking loudly and hiding behind me and I reacted by lunging for the snake – until I remembered two things: One – the tetanus shot. Two – I was supposed to be PROTECTING my friend! I got carried away in the excitement of the moment and became entirely selfish! (Lest you think my friend was behaving in a cowardly manner, let me remind you that, if she were taking me in for a tetanus shot I would not only have been squeaking and hiding, I would also have been crying and passing out!)
There is something so satisfying about a fistful of snake! Since the time I was five- years-old and found myself in a nest of snakes on an island in Lake George, I have always taken delight in catching (and releasing) snakes. However, the last time I caught a snake, I was bitten! (Why that never happened earlier is just grace, I suppose, and I'm glad that snake wasn't a rattlesnake.) Coincidentally, a few days prior to being bitten, I had been notified that my tetanus booster had expired. When I called to make an appointment for my booster the day after my snake-bite, the nurse informed me they were short on the vaccine, and could only give shots in an emergency. I was very gracious and told the nurse I had no problem with waiting however long it took. But then the nurse added this:
“You haven't had a recent puncture wound, have you?”
I laughed – still relieved... until I thought of something: Snake bite! Did that count as a puncture-wound? Did I have to tell her? What if it DOES count? What if I get tetanus and die just because I neglected to mention my recent snake bite? Maybe it wouldn't count... It wouldn't. It wasn't a rusty nail or anything sinister like that – it was just a snake bite, and the snake seemed pretty healthy – spunky, even.
“Does a snake bite count?” I asked, sort of laughing like I knew it didn't and was just joking.
“A SNAKE BITE?!” she exclaimed.
“Well – it wasn't a POISONOUS snake,” I said, “it was just a small snake that bit me when I picked it up in the woods yesterday.”
“You had better come in,” she said. “A snake bite counts as a puncture wound.”
I'm more cautious now. When I take “snake walks,” I bring gloves.