It’s early summertime and the kids are out in force helping with chores and the many brandings going on at the ranches across the area. It is time to enjoy the long hours of daylight and the warm—soon hot—weather. But with warm weather, and kids doing farm chores comes some dangers and one danger everyone should be aware of this time of year is the dangerous presence of rattlesnakes.
Southeastern Colorado is the home of three different species of rattlesnakes including the Prairie Rattlesnake, the Massasauga and the Midget Faded Rattlesnake. The Prairie Rattlesnake is considered one of the deadliest in the nation as it gives a high level of venom in its bites.
Venomous snake bites can produce an array of symptoms, including localized pain and swelling, convulsions, nausea, and even paralysis that can sometimes lead to death.
Today, treatments for a rattlesnake bite involves immobilizing the injured body part, cleaning and wrapping the wound, and receiving antivenom medication at a hospital. Without prompt treatment, or if someone has an allergic reaction to the venom, rattlesnake bites can be fatal.
According to a representative at the Kiowa Pharmacy in Eads, “If someone is bitten by a snake they should immediately get to the nearest hospital. There are two different antivenoms available in our area including Anavip and Crofab. These are infusions that only the hospital can give application. Crofab usually needs multiple infusions because the half life is shorter than the venom.”
Luckily, we live in the 2020s where medical treatment for rattlesnake bites is effectively curable and most victims will have a successful recovery.
Medical treatments have certainly changed for the better over the years. Home medical books, such as the People’s Home Medical Book, included in the People’s Home Library, copyright 1911, list various treatments for numerous illnesses and diseases common in that era and makes one appreciate the first aid measures and easy-to-take pills and potions we take for granted today.
Let’s take a look at snake bite treatments listed in the People’s Home Medical Book. “If the bite is on a limb, tie a rope or handkerchief on the limb just above the wound. Cleanse the wound immediately and suck the wound. Cut the wound, allowing blood to flow freely. Fill with salt or, if available, permanganate of potash. Inject the potash, diluted three-fourths with water, and “followed with full doses of brandy or whiskey.”
These “treatments” were given before the discovery of antivenom that even today is the only cure for a rattlesnake bite. Antivenom is traditionally made by collecting venom from the relevant animal and injecting small amounts of it into a domestic animal including horses, pigs and sheep. The antibodies that form are then collected from the domestic animal’s blood and purified.
The French scientist Albert Calmette developed the first antivenom by 1895. It would be another 30 years before antivenom was produced in the United States in 1925.
1925 was just six short years before the summer of 1931 when a Kiowa County boy endured not one, not two, but three rattlesnake bites that nearly took his life each time.
During the summer of 1931, the village of Eads luckily had a pharmacist with foresight who had recently obtained antivenom, referred to then as “snake serum” or in the French spelling, “Antavenin.” The Kiowa County Press reported on this new miracle drug on June 12, 1931:
Kiowa County Press, June 12, 1931:
KIOWA PHARMACY HAS SUPPLY OF SNAKE SERUM
This week the Kiowa Pharmacy has added to its stock of drugs and vaccines a supply of Snake-bite serum.
According to Mr. Kirst, Antivenom is the only remedy for snake-bite approved by the United States Government and American Medical Association. It is effective against the bite of the copperhead, rattlesnake and moccasin, if administered immediately.
Snake-bite serum should be given as soon as possible following the bite, and in the event a physician is not available, in case of necessity, Mr. Kirst is qualified to administer the treatment.
Snake-bite serum is carried by the local drug store as protection to the people of this territory and all should remember that in case an accident of this kind occurs the danger is greatly lessened by having this serum available. Packages are also available to carry on camping trips, etc. For further information consult Mr. Kirst.
The very next week a boy, Lyle Uhland, who lived northwest of Eads on the Uhland farm was bit by a rattlesnake. The story was related in the next edition of the Kiowa County Press on June 19, 1931:
Kiowa County Press, June 19, 1931:
LYLE UHLAND BITTEN BY RATTLESNAKE FRIDAY: Use of Snake Serum Counteracts Poison, Has No Ill Effects
Lyle Uhland, son of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Uhland who live northwest of Eads, was bitten on the leg by a rattlesnake last Friday evening while walking through a field.
He was rushed to Eads as soon as possible, where Antavenin was used to counteract the poison from the snake. About thirty minutes form the time he was bitten the serum was injected into his system. Swelling in his leg and stomach had commended, and it was evident that the poison was fast going through his system.
As a result of the injection of Antavenin, and the skill of Dr. James G. Hopkins, Lyle soon recovered from the effects of the snake bite, having been ill only a few hours.
This new snake venom, referred to as Antavenin, was certainly newsworthy as before on the high plains of southeastern Colorado many people succumbed to a rattlesnake bite.
But the foresight of Pharmacist Kirst became even more impressive as not a week later young Lyle Uhland was once again struck by a rattlesnake and this time he almost lost his life before antivenom could be given:
Kiowa County Press, June 26, 1931:
RATTLESNAKE BITE ALMOST PROVES FATAL TO LYLE UHLAND: Bitten by Rattlesnake Twice Within Two Weeks, Accident Occurred Tuesday Evening
Most people live their entire lives without experiencing the menacing bite of a rattlesnake, but such is not the case with Lyle Uhland. June 12 while walking through a field Lyle was bitten, but there was not enough poison injected into his system to disable him before he got to the house. He was rushed to Eads where Antavenin was injected into his system, neutralizing the poison from the snake. After a few hours he had no ill effects from the accident.
Last Tuesday evening Lyly, with his brother, Claude, went out to milk the cows, and Lyle walked to the pasture gate to close it in order to keep the cows in the corral during the night. On his return to the cow shed, he started to crawl through a fence, and just as he was in a helpless position a large rattler sounded warning and before Lyle could get away, sank its fangs deep into his left leg. Lyle walked only about a hundred feet toward the cow shed when he was overcome by the poison. After about fifteen minutes had passed Claude thought it peculiar that Lyle did not return to milk his cows, and went to the house and asked if he had gone there. Fearing something had happened, the family commenced hunting him, and after a few minutes search found him in his helpless condition with only enough strength left to explains what had happened.
Mr. Uhland rushed him to Eads, arriving at the drug store just as his hear was beginning to fail. Lyle had been unconscious since leaving home, and the doctor doubted very much if the heart would last long enough to circulate the Antavenin through his system. After several minutes of anxious waiting and careful attention by Dr. James G. Hopkins and Fred Kirst, local druggist, they could tell that the serum was taking effect and that his life would be saved.
About five o’clock Wednesday morning Lyle regained consciousness, and after a few hours rest was on his way to recovery.
At the present time Lyle is doing nicely, although his system is in a somewhat weakened condition, because of the poison which had affected him before Antavenin neutralized it.
According to Dr. James G. Hopkins and Fred Kirst, the bite received by Lyle last Tuesday was much worse than the one a few days ago, more poison being injected into the wound.
They are rejoicing over the results of Antavenin vaccine, which was the only means of saving Lyle’s life either time. Too much praise cannot be given to Mr. Kirst for providing the community with this wonderful serum. This is not an advertisement, but the Press cannot praise too highly such an effective insurance against loss of life. Lyle Uhland today owes his life to the skill of doctors who provide humanity with Antavenin snake serum.
Lyle Uhland suffered quite a bit after that second bite and spent a lot of his time for the rest of the summer in town healing. One can only imagine how hard it would be for him to return to the farm and to his chores after being bitten twice. But he did return as the family needed help with the chores. Amazingly, and weirdly, Lyle Uhland was bit once again in late October, doing chores in the same cow shed, and on the same left leg. This third time was even more threatening than the others:
Kiowa County Press, October 23, 1931:
RATTLESNAKE BITE IS ALMOST FATAL TO EADS BOY: Eads Boy Bitten by Rattlesnake Monday Evening: third Time to Almost Suffer Death as a Result of Snake Bites; Antevenin Saves Victim
For the third time this summer Lyle Uhland has almost succumbed to the bite of a rattlesnake. Last Monday evening was the time of his latest experience.
For several weeks Lyle has been staying in town attending to his radio business and going to school, only returning to the home of his parents northwest of Eads at irregular intervals. Monday evening he visited the parental home, and in his usual manner went about helping with the chores. Soon after five o’clock he went out to the cow barn to milk and walked around to a feed stack to get a bundle for the cows. As he stepped up to the stack he heard a rattle and at the same time a snake struck his left leg. As he jumped back the snake hung on to his pants and wrapped around his other leg. This frightened Lyle beyond selfcontrol and he ran to the house as fast as possible, although the snake had dropped soon after he started to run. His father, Robert Uhland, saw him running toward the house and realized something was wrong and rushed to him. Lyle stated that a snake had bitten him but until Mr. Uhland saw the scratches on his leg he could not realize such had happened.
Lyle was rushed to Eads as soon as possible, but he lost consciousness soon after leaving home. When they arrived at the Kiowa Pharmacy Dr. Duffy was summoned to care for the patient. According to the doctor, Lyle’s heart action was very weak, and after injecting the prescribed amount of Antevenin, the serum which had twice before saved his life, it was necessary to give him a heavy dose of strychnine. The wound was also lanced, from which flowed a black stream of poisoned blood.
At nine-fifteen that night, Lyle regained consciousness and within an hour’s time was feeling well with the exception of pain in his leg and sore places where the vaccination needles were inserted.
For Lyle, we believe the snakes have done their share of foul play. On the twelfth of June he was bitten on the left leg while walking through a pasture. Antevenin applied at the Kiowa Pharmacy saved his life. Elven days later, June 23, he was bitten again, and this time was unable to get to the house for help and was found by the family laying helpless, hardly able to tell them what had happened. Because he was so long getting help life was almost extinct at the time Antevenin was given him. A few days later Lyle was apparently in good health.
The accident this time occurred only a short distance from where he was bitten June 23. And all three bites happened to be on his left leg. Although the premises were searched for the rattler shortly after the accident they were unable to find it. From the way they have treated Lyle this summer, one would naturally thing the Uhland farm is thickly infested with rattlesnakes. But that is not the case. Mr. Uhland states that he has not seen a snake on the place during the past two years, and he believes that Lyle was just unfortunate or unlucky enough to encounter these harrowing experiences.
At the present time we are pleased to announce that Lyle is doing nicely, although he has remained in bed for five days at the doctor’s instructions.
Thankfully, Lyle Uhland managed to live through that scary summer of 1931 as the young man endured more pain and anxiety than he more than likely suffered during the rest of his life combined. Some might say Lyle Uhland was born under an unlucky sign, but then again, Lyle Uhland and all area residents were very lucky they had Mr. Kirst as their pharmacist.