Scooter Tramp Scotty: Snakes In The Ozarks

Article By: Scooter Tramp Scotty

Originally Published In The May 2019 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine

It was a lonely little two-lane that meandered its twisting journey through the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas as Jim’s heavily loaded 1992 Electra Glide followed my 1991. Ours was a slow ride through the thick forests that lined the twisting road on this warm summer day. We were on the road to Sturgis and, with weeks to spare, we had no reason in the world to hurry. Having just passed the small town of Mountain View, the day was waning into late afternoon when I decided it was time to find a spot for the night’s camp. Although it was still early, we’d ridden enough, and I was ready to set up home and relax for a while.

home and relax for a while. Since forgotten and overgrown dirt roads often led across uneven ground that would disappear into thick forests, it didn’t take long before both bikes were stopped at the head of one. As is my habit, we walked into the deep path to check the accommodations and make sure conditions would allow the passage of big motorcycles. Dressed only in tank-shirt, shorts and sandals, I led the way through tall grass, and Jim followed. It was a quick sting that hit the back of my sandaled foot, and I thought, Damn! They sure have big wasps around here. As I was contemplating the culprit, Jim yelled from behind, “That’s a fucking copperhead!” I turned to follow his pointing finger. “It ran off a little, but you can see him sitting over there now.” Jim was right. Less than ten feet from us, the poisonous snake sat to stare at us a moment before disappearing into the underbrush. “I think you stepped right on him.” It seemed strange that, after all these years of sleeping in deserts with no trouble, a snake should have bitten me in Arkansas. I’d seen rattle snakes before, but they’d always warned me with a rattle long before I could step on them. The copperhead doesn’t have this ability. I looked at Jim as he stared back with the same unsaid question: What do we do now?

Looking closely at the bite, we noted only one fang puncture on the back of my heel. I guessed my sandal strap had deflected the other. Walking back to the paved road seemed logical. Once there, Jim got on the cell/net for information on this new development. The internet told us that, although seriously poisonous, few people died from a copperhead bite. “But it still says you should see a doctor Scotty.” It really doesn’t feel like a big deal though Jim.” We decided that this wasn’t a good spot to camp at and would find another one before the sun went down. In the meantime we would keep an eye on the bite to see if it got worse.”

Less than a mile later, I spotted a tiny dirt road that led up a hill and into some trees. Just as we parked, a motorcycle roared by but we paid it little attention. We walked down the road and found a perfect camp spot. Then we walked back to the road intending to grab the bikes. As Jim searched for more internet info, I sat on the pavement inspecting my swelling foot and calf. Of course, the next question was: Make camp or go to a hospital? Obviously, if we made camp and things worsened during the night, there could be real trouble. However, I felt nowhere near convulsions or death and said as much. Just as I was leaning towards making camp, a large white pickup truck stopped, the driver hung his head out the window and said, “I came by a few minutes ago on a motorcycle. There’s a big storm coming soon — heavy rain and wind. Our place is less than a quarter mile up the street. I came back to invite you guys to come park under our carport then wait it out at the house. Storm shouldn’t last too long.”

I gazed at him, “Really appreciate that, But what about a copperhead bite?” “You been bit?” “Yes.” “You’ve gotta go to the hospital.” “But it doesn’t feel that bad,” I said. “You won’t get the full effect for six to seven hours. “You sure?” “I’m a nurse, and copperhead bites are not uncommon in these mountains. So, yea, I’m sure. Bring your bikes to the house, and I’ll run you to the hospital in my truck.” There was nothing left but to follow him. The house was close, and in no time our bikes sat under the little carport beside a black Honda Shadow. As we stood in the gravel driveway, our new friend introduced himself as Wayne. His wife was at work today, so it was just us guys. Wayne immediately exuded that helpful friendliness I’d noted in almost all serious motorcyclists. I liked him right away. Because of the twisty roads, the truck-ride to Mountain View took a while, and as the vehicle leaned through its corners, conversation came easily. Dusk was settling across the mountains as we entered the hospital door. The place was empty, and I seemed to be the only patient.

I was soon thrown into a wheelchair, pushed to a private room where I was laid in a hospital bed. A young guy appeared to check my pulse and take blood. A nurse came with cloth tape measure to wrap around my swollen foot then she made marks with a Sharpie. After that, a tall youngish doctor appeared at my bedside. “How you feeling?” “Not bad considering. Not like I’m gonna die or anything.” “It’ll be a few hours before you get the full effect of the bite,” he confirmed again. This man’s manner was easygoing, personal, and not overly professional. I almost liked him already. He checked my foot while I explained about the single fang mark. “We don’t have the antivenin here,” he said, “and it’s my decision whether to load you into an ambulance for the 40-mile ride to the hospital that does.” “How much is antivenin?” “Ten grand.” “Sounds like a $50,000 ride to me. I don’t have that kind of money. Listen, I’m inside this body, and this bite doesn’t feel like it’s going to kill me. How about we try to avoid that ride?” I didn’t mention the ache in my heart which, as Jim and I had read on the net, is one of symptoms.

“I’m only human,” he went on, “My decisions are not always right. But I sleep well at night because I try to make the absolute best choices for my patients that I can.” Did he really just say that? I immediately appreciated the admission of his human limitations compared to the sterile professionalism some docs throw at you. “Tell you what; I’ll come back in two hours and we’ll see what’s happening then.” Having taken an actual liking to one another, the doc lingered and we joked and shot the breeze for quite some time. He probably didn’t have much going on that night anyway. Eventually, however, he did leave. Jim and Wayne appeared next. “They’ll be keeping you overnight,” Wayne said. “Are you serious? I’ve never stayed a night in a hospital yet.” “First for everything. Listen, we’re going back to the house and will see you in the morning. Call if something changes.” He was right of course. There was no reason for them to hang around.

 

Next, a nurse asked if I was hungry, then brought the same gourmet brown-baloney sandwich I’d enjoyed so little while in the San Bernardino County Jail many years ago. When two hours had passed, the doc reappeared. “I’ve decided on that ambulance ride. We’re gonna do it.” This was the safest decision for him, but I still wasn’t into it. “I don’t feel any worse. I’m thinking about not taking that ride. What say we wait a little longer?” “You’re the best and worst customer I’ve ever had Scotty,” his half smile and twinkling blue eyes betrayed amusement. Possibly even respect. “Tell you what; I’ll come back at 6 am. If you’re still okay, then we’ll call it. Deal?”

Of course, it was. And so, the doc left. Alone now, I tried to sleep on that uncomfortable bed and soon learned that hospitals are terrible places for trying to rest. It was early morning when the male nurse returned to take more blood. I quickly checked my foot. No change and I still felt the same. Well over seven hours had passed. That was it. I was done. After I refused the blood draw, he wheeled his cart out again. The doctor soon came in. “I’m fine,” I said, “No change so I’m walking out of here.” He agreed. The injury was only what they call a ‘dry bite’ after all. This is when the snake either doesn’t or has no opportunity, to inject much venom. In my case, there had been no soft meat to sink his teeth into. Grabbing the cell, I called Jim and told them to come and get me. Although everyone seemed cool, it would be a real relief to get out of this hospital.

Shortly, Wayne and Jim showed up, and we were again stuffed into the big truck’s front seat. Upon arrival at the house, I saw that Jim’s tent had been erected in Wayne’s little carport. Everyone took a good look at my foot. It was swollen sure, but no more than before. Sitting upon our parked bikes, conversation turned to life in general…and motorcycles of course. Because he rode an average bike, I’d not realized the depth of Wayne’s love for motorcycling. I saw it now. Of course, it was the packed up bikes and opportunity for interaction with other riders that had brought us together. But, as with many I’ve known, Wayne’s a guy who could not live without riding. I found it interesting to learn that he has a rare condition that causes bouts of extremely high blood pressure but motorcycling always brings it back down. “My blood pressure can be through the roof; I’ll take a 15-minute ride, then check and find it’s dropped dramatically. My wife figures motorcycles are dangerous, but, for me, not riding is more so.”

Eventually, our bikes were repacked, and again it was only the sounds of engines and the passing of forests on another sunny day that encircled our world. Ahead lay an old friend in the town of Rogers Arkansas, and it was there we’d spend a week in the camper he’d provide. Chuck Wimer was also riding for Sturgis and would meet us there soon. From that point on, more unplanned adventures would present themselves as us Three Amigos traversed the Great Planes and eventually landed in the little town of Sturgis South Dakota.

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