Those familiar dangers we learn from childhood on are such a part of our consciousness that they carry instinctual wisdom and warnings that become second nature. Growing up in the Milk River Valley and the foothills and plains beyond, we know to stay away from the river in flood, stay out of the pasture with the mean bull and don’t pick up a baby rattlesnake, cute or not.
Such wisdom even tells us if the rattlesnake has just had its head chopped off, leave it for a while. Reflexive action can be dangerous. Let the dead snake alone, like three days, I say. For example, I would never in a million years smash a rattlesnake and immediately reach down to pick it up to put it in the trash.
Along toward evening last Sunday I was working at my computer, finished my project, closed the program and stood up. My foot squished something crunchy and alive. Fortunately, my feet were clad in sandals. I lifted my foot and looked down to see what had gotten itself put into my path. Immediately I was transported half way across the room and expletives unfit for a family newspaper issued forth from my mouth. Where my foot had been nano-seconds before lay a dead scorpion the size of a small dog. I swear.
The thing is dead, right. I’m bigger than it is and had squished it heartily. My heart slowed down. I grabbed a paper towel and reached to pick the it up and dispose of the carcass. The dead scorpion reached up as I reached down and stung me on my forefinger. I didn’t know they could do that.
I left it where it was, carefully stepped around it and sat back at my computer and searched for information on what to do for a scorpion sting. There was a long list of things such as apply Benadryl, go to hospital, ice the affected area, go to hospital, carry anti-venom kit (that’s telling me to lock the barn door after the horse ran away), on and on and on and go to hospital. So I did what any self-respecting I-can-take-care-of-myself-type person would do. I got ice and a rag and wrapped my finger in ice.
A few minutes later Lupe walked in the door. “Hi, Hon. Oh, by the way, a scorpion just stung me.”
“There.” I pointed to the super-sized mangled body on the floor.
“No, where did he sting you?”
“Oh. Here.” I held up my hand wrapped in a rag soaked with dripping, melting ice, my finger numb and tingling and painful.
Next I remember a series of disjointed scenes, like in a bad movie. I was tucked into the car, my hand still wrapped in ice, careering through the night darkened back streets of Mazatlan. I held on for dear life as we rolled around corners, taking every shortcut. I giggled. This drama hardly seemed necessary. It’s not like the scorpion hit me full strength. We rolled up to the door of the Red Cross Hospital.
Flash forward. I was lying on a gurney. A nurse injected three hypos of mystery medicine through a tube attached to a needle attached to my inner elbow. I don’t do needles. That part was exciting. Still on the gurney, I had to wait a couple hours, for “observation.” Now and then someone came through and asked my difficult questions, such as “Do you know your name.”
Eventually Dr. Hector called me into his office to make sure I could walk and kept me there another half hour asking the hard questions, “Do you know your name?” He wanted to keep me six hours but I convinced him I could go home. Dr. Hector released me with medication, a list of don’ts which included no alcohol (no problem), no caffeine (painful) and no operating a motor vehicle (easy). He said to stay in bed three days (a joke, right).
I thought the whole thing a bit melodramatic. One day in bed, OK. I had things to do the next day. A third day was truly excessive. I slept the first day. The second day I thought I would humor Dr. Hector so canceled things to do and people to see. The third day I got up for an hour, yawned and said to myself, “I think I’ll just lie down for a little nap.” Several times.
Now that I’m back in the land of the truly living, I have learned a world of wisdom and knowledge concerning scorpions: Never put my feet on the floor without looking first. Never go barefoot around the house. And never pick up a dead scorpion. Maybe in three days if it hasn’t moved.
(Sondra Ashton graduated from Harlem High School in 1963 and left for good. She finds, upon her return, that things are a little different. Now, she's headed on a new journey. She's moving to Mexico. Keep in touch with her at http://montanatumbleweed.blogspot.com.)