I recall that grandmother, who loved gardening, would usually walk in the yard with a shovel in her hand. That served two purposes besides gardening, one was a replacement for her walking cane and the other was to chop the head of any snake she would see.
Picking berries was always fun, but I remember being told, “Bring a big stick with you, there are snakes in the bushes and they will bite you.” The stick was used to pound the ground next to the bush. The vibrating ground usually made the snake leave its resting area and then the stick was used to kill it.
While camping or setting up a tent in the back yard parents would tell us to bring a long rope. It was believed that by stringing a rope on the ground around the tent that the snake would think that it had encountered a larger snake and would be repelled. Some people would surround their entire house with a large rope for that purpose.
They would tell me that even a large snake could crawl in a crack no larger than a quarter of an inch wide. Many of the olden houses were not well insulated, and cracks were allowed for better air circulation, but used by snakes. I don’t know if the rope worked but few would brave the outdoors without some protection from the dangerous snakes.
The egg eaters called mangeur d’œufs were considered the least dangerous but many times they would swallow so many eggs from the chicken coop that there were few left for the family’s breakfast.
How did the pioneers deal with snakebite? I remember an episode of Andy Griffith when Dr. Adams was bitten by a poisonous snake, and he was cured when Festus stole a chicken from a farmer, and used its blood and warm body to extract the poison. Dr. Adams survived.
The research that I have read indicated that this method works, but sometimes as much as three chickens were needed to remove most of the venom. In the absence of chickens, frogs were used.
The blood of other animals was also used. In China, bottles of dried turtle blood can be purchased at department stores for this purpose.
One of the most common cures that I remember was the use of tobacco, which was also used for earache, toothache, and wasp-bee stings. Cutting the area where the bite occurred was done to induce bleeding and thus remove some of the venom. Tobacco was used to stop the bleeding and ease the pain.
And here is one remedy that many Cajuns would have enjoyed after being bitten by a snake. Yes, drink plenty alcohol.
According to Randolf Marcy in his handbook of instructions for colonists headed west, “if bitten by snake, alcohol must be taken until the patient becomes much intoxicated and this requires a large quantity, as the action of the poison seems to counteract its effects.”
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