It was a crisp October day, the kind of day that makes you think of leaves of golden, red, and brown, wicked pumpkins with their eyes all aglow, and fall apples swimming in caramel sauce. My grandparents and I were out in the back yard setting up Halloween decorations; jack-o-lanterns, ghosts, and old cornstalks littered the yard as we got prepared for our scary scenes. I was 10-years-old, when Halloween still meant getting sick on candy and getting to dress up as ghosts or gypsies or witches.
Earlier that day I had attended church services. Sunday school was interesting as usual. Our lesson was about Genesis. And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. (KJV, Genesis 3:14-15)
Later after the sermon, I had finally made public to the church that I accepted Jesus Christ as my savior and believed Him to be the son of God and joined the church I had attended since I birth. My little family was delighted and it added a merry glow to our work. It was also my aunt’s 40th birthday and we would be having a party later to celebrate.
After a quick lunch I was changed into a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. I wore no shoes. I was outside, having a great time dragging around old, dry, and rustling cornstalks that needed binding together and spending time with my grandparents, who had raised me since I was 8-years-old. I was looking forward to later, when I would get to carve pumpkins and toast their seeds to eat. I was just walking back towards our picnic table to grab another bunch of stalks when a voice, a voice I didn’t know, told me to jump.
I reacted quickly and jumped up onto our old cement picnic table. As I was in the air, to my great surprise I felt a sharp, stabbing sensation on my heel that quickly started burning. Looking down, I saw in horror a tiny snake, curled up with its head bobbing in the air. A trickle of blood was running down my foot and dripping onto the cement below.
Well, of course, I screamed.
My grandmother, then 60-years-old, reacted quickly. My grandfather had gone to the barn to get some more twine and she called down to him to bring a hoe. He shouted “Why?” and even in my panic I had to giggle as my usually differing grandmother shouted in return, “Never mind why, just bring the damn hoe!”
He came running with it and my grandmother, my tiny grandmother, grabbed and cut that snakes head clean off. Grabbing it up, she said, “Heather’s been bit!” and took off for the house.
Once inside, she called my aunt and uncle who were eating lunch with his parents. My uncle left so fast that my aunt was left behind. When he arrived, he grabbed me up, still sobbing, still thinking I was about to die, and thrust me to his truck. My aunt pulled up then with my uncle’s step-father and jumped in the truck with me.
I had to laugh again, as my uncle’s step-father, who served a tour of duty in Vietnam, offered to suck the poison out. My uncle gave him a horrified look and said no. We were going to the hospital. My uncle sped off, leaving my grandparents to follow behind us in their car.
Once we arrived at the hospital, in record time, the nurses rushed me into the ER. A doctor was called and he came at once.
“Did you catch the snake,” he asked my grandfather. Wordlessly, my grandmother held up a plastic bag. She had thought to bring the snake.
The doctor examined it closely. “It’s a baby,” he said softly, turning the bag around and around. “Looks like a copperhead.”
“Yes,” said my grandfather, looking slightly sick with worried. “That’s what I thought too.”
“Am I going to die?” I whispered to my grandmother, who was clutching my hand tightly. My heart was thumping madly.
“No,” she whispered back and patted my hand softly. My grandfather and the doctor continued to converse quietly, with their backs turned to me. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but they looked worried.
“Put some ice on her foot,” the doctor told a nurse. “You make sure it stays on there,” he told me, and then he walked out to the room.
A few minutes later he came back with a syringe. “This is a tetanus shot,” he told my grandparents. “It will stop the venom from spreading. We’ll keep her for a few hours to make sure she doesn’t get sick. If she doesn’t, you can go home then.”
They wheeled me out into the waiting room in a wheelchair. “Keep your foot elevated,” the nurse told me.
So, we waited. And waited. And waited some more. During that time we watched TV, read magazines, and talked. I had finally begun to calm down when it appeared that I would in fact, not die. Finally, the doctor reappeared. He examined my foot again, then looked at me.
“You must have moved fast, only one fang got you.”
I remembered the voice that had told me to jump, but didn’t say anything about that to the doctor. I just nodded and said with a tremble to my voice I couldn’t hide, “So will I be okay?”
“Yes,” he said with a smile. “Just keep your foot elevated for the rest of the day. Your foot will bruise where the venom had spread, but that will disappear with time. Your arm will be sore from the shot, but that will go away in about a week.” He glanced at my grandparents, “You’re free to go.” Looking back at me he said, “And you might want to wear shoes next time you’re outside.”
I smiled and nodded weakly, just glad to be going home. And the doctor was right, my foot turned a million shades of purple, blue and green. Later I remembered our Sunday school lesson fondly. And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. And I always wondered whose voice I heard, telling me to jump and saving me from the venom of that snake. Funny how God chooses to get some of His lessons across.