Letters To The Editor
From Issue #65
Doomsday and Gary North
I read your publishers note regarding the doomsayers—well done. I am certain that not one of them has confessed to being in error.
I was foolish enough to fall prey to Gary North several years ago and actually bought a subscription to his Remnant Review—what a God awful joke that rag is. After a couple issues I was sick of it and tried to make a claim against his money back guarantee—no way, buddie I wasted my money. I’ll stick with BHM. Thank you for some great entertainment and useful information.
I just received my new CD ROM. I am really enjoying it, although I really would have preferred hard copies. I would have still bought the CD…it would be a nice addition…it’s not a substitute though. I would love to have the first seven years anthologies on CD as well. But please don’t stop making the hard copies of your work. Books, unlike the 8-track tape player, do not become obsolete.
We hope to print the hard copy of year number 8 this year, as well as make the CD-ROM for the first 6 years. Since the CD-ROM requires far less up-front money from us, that may get done first. — Dave
Energy Works section
I want to commend you on the new Energy Works section. It adds more to an already extraordinary magazine. Energy independence is the main reason I initially subscribed to Backwoods Home. After reading my first issue (#56), I was hooked. You have a great team at BHM.
Thank you for the information on soldering copper pipes to fins for making solar panels for hot water heating. Your advice sounds very sensible. Glad we found you and BHM at our local Borders. It’s great to know someone like you is out there to help solar “do-it-yourselfers.” We’ll be looking for your article with Rob Harlan.
We’ve had a lot of positive feedback on our new Energy Works section, which is edited by Michael Hackleman. The Rob Harlan piece is in this issue. —Dave
“Real gun criminals” commentary
I never thought I would be saying that you didn’t go far enough in your pro-gun article. But I think you let the real motivation get away scott-free. I think that the real motivation behind the anti-gun politicians is that they can’t REALLY do anything about crime, so they go after guns in an attempt to make a lot of noise. They need to show that they are hard on crime, in ways where they don’t have to do anything meaningful.
After all, prisons cost money which is spent on convicts that, generally, can’t or won’t vote. Courtrooms cost money, judges cost money, police cost money. This money is not apparently useful in the short term, so it doesn’t generate votes. Votes and campaign funds are generated by supporting unions and constantly reciting the mantra of “jobs.” Votes and campaign funds are generated by opening government lands to developers. Not many convicts make political donations, I would say.
The real message won’t be carried to the politicians by a small number of homesteaders who hole up on their homesteads, even if they have guns. I imagine the politicians think that homesteaders are a bunch of nuts who probably don’t vote anyway. No, the word will be carried by people who stand up at town meetings or write lots of letters and e-mails to challenge the politicians’ failure to curb crime. The real word will be gotten through to politicians when the masses stand up and say: “I voted for you, and I sent some campaign money; I don’t want to hear about guns any more, unless you also tell me what you are doing about the rapists in our town, the child molesters, the abusive spouses, and the drug dealers.”
Good point. I might add that we don’t need more prisons. If the government stopped prosecuting victimless crimes (personal marijuana use, for example) we’d have a surplus of prison space so they could lock away violent criminals. — Dave
I enjoy your magazine. I just finished reading your “My View” article in the May/June issue. Extremely good food-for-thought if not outright fiat. I personally know three ladies who are un-raped, un-robbed and alive today because they had a gun when the situation demanded it. None of them had to do anything but display it and promise to use it if necessary (as in 98% of the 2½ million uses of firearms for protection last year). Your feelings about Ms. Feinstein are like preaching to the choir for me. But, one must realize that she like all (or should I say most) politicians possess unmitigated gall and loyalty to the globalist cause. Your final lament in the article as to “Why are we letting this happen” is: “we” aren’t. “We” tragically are subjected to a well orchestrated, well funded, global attempt to disarm the world. You can hardly blame people when they are bombarded by good looking, well dressed, articulate and knowledgeable people acting as news anchormen and talk show hosts, etc…Dan Rascal is so sincere in his documentaries that your psyche desperately wants to relate and it takes a strong, determined exercise of the will to be pragmatic. My mother, pushing 80, is always asking why the “news” does not cover this or that happening and doesn’t fully realize that it’s not a part of the scenario. That’s why magazines such as yours are great. You are providing a great service as well as making a living, a forum and source of knowledge that is critical to “we” doing something about it.
I seldom read the “letters to editors” in other publications in the depth I do yours. You can relate with the writer because they are talking from the heart and, sadly, many of them, especially from an urban environment, don’t have a point of relation. For example in 1957 I walked into a sporting goods store at age 15 and purchased my first .22 caliber pistol. No background check, no papers, no hassle whatsoever. I seldom shoot that gun (not weapon) because it is now attaining family heirloom status but over the years me and my siblings (there are 9 of us) fired thousands of rounds through it. God help a 15-year-old today that would even attempt to buy ammunition. To date Mr. Kennedy’s car has killed far more people than my .22 ever has and ever will if I can help it. I am 57 and cannot remember a time that guns were not a fixture in our home and all our friends’ and families’ homes. In fact I had to attain adulthood and locate to an urban environment before I ever met someone who did not own a gun. My point is I lived a lifestyle as regards guns that is increasingly foreign to many people. No wonder “we” don’t seem to be doing anything about it.
I spent last weekend at the world’s largest gun show in Tulsa—3,000 tables of tens of thousands of guns and God knows how many people. The powers that be would have you believe that I was in peril of my life around so many gun nuts. In fact I found thousands of friendly, polite, considerate, average, hard-working Americans from all over the country (and some foreigners) doing what we’ve done since our founding. I at no time felt fear or imperilment. In short I totally enjoyed myself and dropped a few buckos on the Tulsa economy in the process.
Keep up the good work. I too totally enjoy the irreverent jokes and Mr. Ayoob’s articles. As some writer said in the letters section: “Don’t change a thing.”
I have read your magazine from time to time and found it interesting and informative. I decided to subscribe after reading your editorial about the “real gun criminals.” This prompted me to do a little research for the truth and open my eyes to what really goes on. The Feinstein thing really pissed me off and coincidentally I came across more Feinstein info in the NRA magazine. This prompted me to write many angry letters. I have enclosed copies of the letter for your perusal.
Thank you for telling it like it is! Keep up the good work. By the way, congratulations on your batting 10 for 10 on the predictions thing.
You exercised your right to express your evolution theories as fact. You also took the opportunity to demean Christians who oppose your view in the editorial & comments section. Enough said, although I enjoy the valid aspects of BHM I will now exercise my right to not renew my subscription and further support your lambastions of my brothers in Christ.
Priscilla Dugan writes: “Many true scientists will admit that they have no scientific proof of the earth being more than 6,000 to 10,000 years old…” This is nonsense. There is plenty. I would like to see a list of these “true scientists.”
About the evolution article: Holy cow, what an uproar. I personally subscribe to the creation version, but think it is a good idea to know of the world’s version of things. Just because I know doesn’t mean I have to participate!!
Keep up the great work. I really liked the drugs & legalization article and I’m thinking seriously about becoming an “armed female.” O, boy, now it’s “I am woman, smell my gunpowder.”
Lost in the VA fire/Rosie and guns
How about considering a heading for your commentary page (My View, page 7) using the Samual Adams quote that ended the July/Aug issue?
I have been around a long time and find people today have forgotten or have been brainwashed to feel government is boss, be it local or federal. They work for us but act like masters regardless if it is city or Washington talking.
The recent “expose” by 20/20 as big news how the government often claims to have no records in VA matters was no surprise to many of us who were given the “lost in the fire story” for years.
I took this crap for awhile till I got mad after being told “a discharge is not evidence of service.”
Congressmen are a waste of time so often in getting answers, however people that work for them often turn out to be vets also. These folks cut to the chase and say it is because “the workers(?) at VA are too damn lazy to look for the files needed, and the lost-in-the-fire story is a way to get your case off their desk.”
Sometimes it takes a little pressure like a promise to come to the office, talk to them in person to get the VA to get back from a day long coffee break and find the requested items.
If a reader wants a lesson in abuse of power, just go file for Social Security Disability or a VA loan. You will not believe you are still in America the way the law is ignored and disregarded. I realize there are some hard working folks in both sections but I never had the pleasure to encounter them.
Now that Rosie O’D has a new view of the value of guns let’s all work to see she learns there are uses for guns that need to be guarded. I see her as merely someone that perhaps means well but has never learned the history lessons in school like she admits she did not learn Geography. With her bodyguard now carrying a gun it is a perfect time to have folks write to her asking she consider reading the 2nd Amendment on her show each time she bashes guns. I think she is just uninformed and ill advised to date.
It is not just Rosie but untold numbers of folk that just do not understand history and the value our founding fathers placed in firearms. They are much more needed today than any other time recently. Americans today are in warm water just like the frog that stays in same, not realizing it is getting hotter and hotter to the point of cooking his personality!
Much of the problem today can be placed upon legal whores that sell their services merely for the lucre, like publications that kneel before the people that have sold out to special interests instead of having values and guts! Hang in there Dave, a man must be able to face the face in the mirror, do what you know is right just as you have with BHM. As you know success is not spelled m-o-n-e-y. Think of it as an ant and a rubber tree plant.
Thanks for a great magazine and a strong constitution personally, keep on keeping on.
Some gun control history
I appreciate your stand on gun control, especially during this period of history when such a stand is “politically incorrect.” We need more people to stand up and tell the politicians they no longer control what we say or think.
I’m forwarding some historical information for you and your readers…this should be an eye opener…a lot of people get upset with Hitler’s plan to exterminate the Jews…those folks should also go back and review the plans of the United States of America in reference to the Native Americans in the 1800’s…we beat Hitler to that process by a hundred years…and we don’t believe it could happen again?
Something to think about…
“In 1929, the Soviet Union established gun control. From 1929 to 1953, about 20 million dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
“In 1911, Turkey established gun control. From 1915 to 1917, 1.5 million Armenians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
“Germany established gun control in 1938 and from 1939 to 1945, 13 million Jews and others who were unable to defend themselves were rounded up and exterminated.
“China established gun control in 1935. From 1948 to 1952, 20 million political dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
“Guatemala established gun control in 1964. From 1964 to 1981, 100,000 Mayan Indians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
“Uganda established gun control in 1970. From 1971 to 1979, 300,000 Christians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
“Cambodia established gun control in 1956. From 1975 to 1977, one million ‘educated’ people, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.”
Defenseless people rounded up and exterminated in the 20th Century because of gun control: 56 million.
The next time someone talks in favor of gun control, ask them “Who do YOU want to round up and exterminate?” With guns, we are citizens. Without them, we are subjects.
Something to think about…Don’t let the liberal media control your mind with their propaganda blitz. They want to blame crime on gun ownership to justify eventual gun confiscation, but they’re soft on crime law enforcement and they say pro-violence and an immoral entertainment industry is the real cause.
Most of the politicians in both parties are controlled by the liberal establishment. In effect, we have a one party system. They deserve academy awards.
I enjoy your magazine very much. In fact I go thru as much expense to get it as you go thru to get it to me. You send it to my mother. She takes all the fillers inserted in the magazine then splits it in half and mails it 1st class mail to me. I live in Saudi Arabia and I can receive 1st class mail up to 11 ounces. That costs me about $1.80 for each half so you can see I go thru some trouble to get your magazine. I thank my mother for her help. I have some land just about paid for and I plan on moving to it in the next 1½ years. I have got a lot of good ideas from your magazine and now you know why I subscribe to Backwoods Home. I have just picked a couple of sights for a house. My next project is to get a water witch to locate some possible locations for a well so I can place the house. The information I need now is more information on septic tanks. I am really interested in the design of a rock reed filter system instead of a standard drain field. I have the space for this and I understand the water output from a rock reed filter is 99% pure. There was research completed in the state of Mississippi about 5 years ago but I can’t find any information on how to build one with any details on the layout and design of one.
I’m not familiar with the design of the system, but maybe one of our knowledgeable readers will either write in or contact you via e-mail about it. —Dave
Keep up the good work as I consider Backwoods Home Magazine to be the best magazine I have ever read. I am approximately five years from retiring to my backwoods home and enjoy your publication more than any other magazine I’ve ever read. And, at 58 years old that is quite a few magazines.
Also, please give my sincere regards to your entire staff for a job well done. All of your honest views and opinions are a refreshing change from the usual tradition of, “vogue-a-phobic-hero’s” and commercialism. Being born and raised in the back-country, I am anxious to get back to it. Also to all of you, “continue following your hearts in back-country living.”
To the unfortunate who have never experienced this, “try harder to follow your dreams as this lifestyle is the only way to live.” Also in my opinion, there should be a “Surgeon General’s warning” as we approach each city in America, as today’s city-life is by far more hazardous to your health than any brand of tobacco.
Excellent job on your magazine, and as always, a realistic view of the world. We are in a truly sad state of affairs. It saddens me greatly to see all of the changes for the worse that have happened in my lifetime. (I’m 30 yrs old now) I can’t imagine what it’s like for people like my grandmother and grandfather. It must be a great disappointment for them.
I just wanted to write to you and say thank you for your magazine. It is a good, sturdy, and dependable service that has a beneficial and positive message for your subscribers. Please keep up the excellent work and may God bless you richly.
Even though I may not always agree with you 100% (more like 98% recently) I still respect your well thought out and interesting writings. Although I am still a suburbanite zombie, I often enjoy day dreaming about life in the wilds of America, just off of a two-track, somewhere, peaceful and quiet. This day dream usually follows the one I have about hitting the ka-zillion dollar lottery, being declared a national treasure, and being absolutely tax exempt.
Thanks for putting out such a great magazine! I absorb it as fast as I can get it. I want to say that I miss the “Critical Thinking” articles. I really enjoyed reading about O.E. MacDougal and his “School Circles, (old Marine Corps term meaning place to learn).”
I also enjoy the information that comes from Dave and John. It’s refreshing to learn things that were deliberately left out of my public high school education. Would you please consider adding more information on foraging and wilderness survival?
The “Critical Thinking” articles will return next issue with a sobering article titled, The Coming American Dictatorship. —Dave
Ten years? Hard to believe. May I join what I perceive to be a big crowd of your peers, fans and envious others in saying congratulations. Backwoods Home, from issue one, is a body of great work by a good and honorable journalist who never lost sight of what he was doing and how it should be done right. Here’s wishing you another decade that will be just as rewarding and helpful to those who wish to escape the rat race and build lives rewarding through self-sufficiency.
You wrote; “…I remember far more times when we got the articles right, when we published important information by writers who had never been published before, or when we recruited pros like Yeager, Williams, Ayoob, Blunt, Thomsen, Fallick, Geissal, Evangelista, Hooker, Modeland, Harris, Waterman, Shober, Sanders, Clay, Hackleman, and many others. Great information couched in great writing.”
Thanks. I appreciate being in this group and having contributed.
Best regards to you, Annie and all the rest of the gang.
Having appreciated his writing for some time, Hackleman was the bait that got me to purchase a copy of BHM at the MREA fair. But the columns about firearms are what set the hook. It’s refreshing to find a publicaton that can address independent living without conforming to the ideologies of either the politically correct or redneck boneheads.
Again your editorial comments in this month’s issue are right on the mark. It’s my first read of every issue, would love to see an anthology with all your editorials. This issue was especially relevant as my interest is in alternative energy methods & systems. I like your recent section “Energy Works.” Please don’t change your magazine.
Issue No. 63 Publisher’s Note
Don’t you realize that you already have a loyal following? Look at all of us that read your magazine every month, that hang upon your every editorial, that quote you to our less enlightened friends and neighbors. Of course, unlike Gary North or David Icke, you’re a messenger of reason, hope, and redemption by our own hands. You see, that’s where the flaw is. You encourage your followers to think for themselves, to take command of their own lives. The doomsayers pretty much want to sell their books, and little more. It’s hard to fleece folks when you’re giving them incredible value for their dollar. So please keep doing what you do, with the excellent crew you do it with. The team at BHM is the best in the business.
Thank you very much for providing the online edition. It’s great to be able to put it on the laptop and take it camping with me.
I want to thank you for the archiving of articles from earlier issues which you are in the process of doing on your website. Reading some of John’s earlier columns from issues that predate my subscription is a real pleasure since my decision to subscribe was based on the column, “We Don’t Need No Steenkin’ 2nd Amendment.”
Right now, with my subscription due for renewal, my only problem in deciding is not whether to resubscribe (that’s a foregone decision) but whether to choose the online subscription or the print subscription.
I appreciate all the work your staff has done in archiving and right now I’m leaning toward taking the online subscription. Thanks, guys. Without BHM, this country would be a much less interesting place to live. Tell Mac that I still think he’d make a great President, even though he’d probably only want to serve one term.
Rights taken away
I must admit that your magazine is one of the best investments I’ve made in a long time. And believe me when I say that I choose my investments wisely. Money is tight where I’m at right now.
At present I’m incarcerated in the Indiana Department of Corrections for protecting my family and property from someone who will always be able to obtain a firearm, no matter what laws are passed. Yes, it does happen!
A person doesn’t realize how valuable their rights are until they are taken away. Be it by the government or the laws enforcing the government.
We as Americans must do our duty to insure that our rights remain intact for our children and all of our family to follow behind us. We cannot let the government continue to run roughshod over us. By standing together and demanding to be heard, we will be able to dictate what our government can and will be able to do. This is how the system was designed to work. Whether this is done by great publications such as BHM or any other legal means it doesn’t matter, but it must be done, and done quickly.
Our rights are being stripped from us as we speak. Each day we lose a little more ground. And we all know it’s a lot harder to stop something once it gains momentum.
We need to educate ourselves and those around us and come to understand that what we say can’t happen to us, can happen. I speak from experience on this.
I myself am a former member of the Armed Forces, having served in Desert Shield and Desert Storm, obtaining an Honorable Discharge. Now the government has taken from me the second and most important amendment. These are the things I fought for, at least that’s what I was led to believe.
Are the bureaucrats actually willing to stoop to such depths to achieve what they want? (Gun Control)
How many of our rights have they already taken while we weren’t paying attention. I’m scared to learn the answer.
I don’t want to sound like a radical, but I do want people to realize what I happened to learn too late.
I hope this helps some people realize that life is precious and short. We have the right, that our forefathers fought and died for, to pursue happiness and prosperity. We can’t allow everything they accomplished be pushed aside.
My time here is up next July and after this short time away from everything I enjoy and love I’ve come to respect life a little more. It’s like they say, “You don’t know what you have until they take it away.”
Let’s not let them take any more.
If there is anyone wishing to correspond with me about these or other issues please write:
Jeff Craig #990311
Thank you for the copy of Constitution and Declaration of Independence.
We are strong supporters of Constitutional Rights, especially the right to own, hold, & use property, and of course the 2nd amendment. Our answering machine message reminds callers to support the above. Your message to subscribers is so important—by giving them the booklet, maybe they will review it more often.
I just received #64 and it is great as usual.
I have taken your BHM & Countryside when I’ve had the money, I think they are both very good. Due to an injury to my left hand, I’ll only be renewing one this fall, it will be BHM because of your stand on “The Constitution.” I love the history that “Mac & John” get into all the time, like the story about salt and the Presidents’ wives, stuff like that.
Mr. Smith’s cancelation is unfortunate for him. He thinks it’s better to bury his head in the sand. The Gov’t loves sheeple like that. I’m stickin with you.
How about “Mac & John” do one on the U.N. taking our National Parks as “World Heritage Sites” by executive order from Slick Willy!
Oh guys, I have a question:
“Which college should I go to and for how long before I’m stupid enough to believe perjury is not impeachable?”
Thumb-hole stock for Mini-14
In the May/June issue’s Ayoob on Firearms column, Justine Ayoob is shown in a picture carrying a Mini-14 and a CAR-15. The Mini-14 is in an aftermarket “thumb-hole” stock. Can I get information on the manufacturer of this stock?
The thumb-hole stock for the Mini-14 was made in Australia, apparently in very small numbers. I picked it up in the United Kingdom not long after their “assault rifle ban.” I brought it back to the states and it did noble heavy duty service for well over a decade. In the spring of 2000, after countless rounds in the hands of students as a loaner rifle, the stock developed a crack that could not be repaired by epoxy. It apparently is not replaceable. A shame: it was superbly ergonomic.
“Why not risk it all” editorial
We, the American People, are rapidly losing our freedoms and few seem to care.
Unlike R. Smith, I wish to thank you for your commentary of “My View” in the May/June 2000 and I appreciated your rebuttal in the above referenced issue.
Dave’s latest commentary, “Why not risk it all”, is one that everyone should read. I’m currently a member of the NRA and am proud to be! I believe strongly that guns save more lives than they take. It’s just that the media never reports those stories; they focus on what some nut has done with a gun against citizens. Guns don’t kill people; people kill people, whether they use a gun or something else. I’d like to share something I read in the June/July 2000 issue of North American Hunter, the official publication of the North American Hunting Club. I shall repeat it here word for word.
The Heart of the Problem
Editor’s note: On May 27, 1999, Darrell Scott, the father of Rachel Scott, a victim of the Columbine High School shootings in Littleton, Colorado, was invited to address the House Judiciary subcommittee. Here are some of his comments from that speech.
Further, three cheers for you Dave, for not abandoning all mention of guns and politics and swinging over to environmental activism. We sure don’t need an ever bigger government control that today’s activists strive for. Please keep up the good work, Dave. Thanks goes out to all the contributors to BHM, especially to Dave’s commentary My View, Massad Ayoob’s great articles, and the ever-funny Irreverent Joke Page.
I just renewed my subscription to your publication for another year. I used to renew for three years at a time but three years ago I was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The doctors have said that I have three to six months to live. Sooner or later one of them will be right. My days of self reliance seem to be over and I almost let my subscription expire. I renewed my subscription primarily because of your views on gun ownership and the second amendment to the constitution. The first thing I read each month is your commentary “My View.” This month Mr. R. Smith canceled his subscription effectively removing himself from the debate because of your stand. On the other hand, I renewed my subscription because of your point of view which I feel should be supported.
Yesterday I received the latest issue of BHM. I read your editorial, which began with a letter from a (former) reader who criticized you for your stand on our Bill of Rights and specifically our second amendment. He said he would be canceling his subscription.
In the remainder of your editorial you explained your personal stance and commented on how others have made themselves rich by kow-towing to the environmental special interests.
I would like to thank you for your courage in resisting the urge to enrich yourself by sacrificing your principles and our constitution to those who are willing to make themselves servants of an out of control government.
I can’t believe that such people would be so willing and foolish to trade not only their own freedom, but the freedom of their children and grandchildren, for a mere promise of security and full bellies made by the worthless politicians that inhabit our federal government. If anyone needs to see how well a government “takes care” of people, all they have to do is visit big-city public housing some day.
Not to mention the multitude of other countries who have governments that purport to “take care” of their people. Cuba comes immediately to mind, and of course the Soviet Union. And dare we forget South Africa, where Nelson Mandela was arrested and imprisoned for many years for the crime of smuggling guns into that country in an attempt to arm the oppressed, who where denied weapons under the “gun control” provisions of their law. Can there be any doubt that racism would have ended if the majority of blacks of South Africa had been allowed to possess arms?
Furthermore, it should not be forgotten that gun control laws in this country had their origin in the attempt to prevent former black slaves from possessing firearms, which those former slaves might use to defend themselves and their families against racist violence by the likes of the KKK and other white Americans, which violence was condoned and at times even supported by many local, state, and dare I say even the federal government. We would all do well to look with grave suspicion upon any suggestion that we give up our right to keep and bear arms.
I’ll hang on to my firearms, thank you, and I am going to print your final quote from John Adams in large font, frame it, and display it in my living room, to be read and pondered by all who visit, citizens and subjects alike.
I love your magazine. Thanks especially for the handy copy of the constitution. Tip: To remove ticks that have already taken hold, just cover entire tick with a glob of vaseline, grease (heavy), lard or any like substance. Wait 5 minutes and wipe away. The tick will have died and turned loose—no leaving a part of the tick in the wound. Clean wound and apply antibiotic. No tweezers to make kids cry!
Snake bite advice
As some one who has always had an interest in critters and worked professionally with reptiles for 12 years, I’m always amazed by the seemingly endless and usually awful articles that appear in outdoor and back to the land magazines every spring about poisonous snakes and snake bite treatment.
What you should know about rattlesnakes in the May/June Issue of BHM is better then many but it still contains a lot of things you shouldn’t know. If Marjorie had confined her comments to the treatment of bites this would be a short letter. In that area her information was generally good. I might have said a few things slightly differently or stressed various items more or less but my only real complaints about this part of the article are the handling of the cut and suck issue, the failure to deal realistically with the relative risks of snake bite in North America and a lack of detailed information about the risks and proper handling of antivenin.
The main reason that cut and suck has been done incorrectly so often is that there isn’t a good way to do it. Marjorie mentions that hemotoxins destroy red blood cells and that is true enough. But it isn’t the end of the story. Hemotoxins (sometimes called cytotoxins) attack and break down body tissue in general. Hemotoxic venoms are actually modified and highly active salivas or digestive juices that not only kill small prey animals but also help to digest them.
Scarring and crippling, not death, are the real dangers from North American viper bites. Cutting an x into the site of a bite only adds damage to an area that is already under attack and almost always results in considerable scarring and in fact it takes far less then 30 minutes for the venom to disperse into the surrounding tissue and you are unlikely to recover much of the poison. I’ve heard of cases where shallow bites resulted in injections just under the skin. Lancing in such a situation would be appropriate but in most cases you can do a great deal of harm and probably not much good. Even without increasing tissue destruction there are many areas where a quarter inch incision can reach arteries, veins, or tendons. Immediate suction without cutting may remove some venom and do little harm. Hemotoxic venoms actually are quite digestible and oral suction does not pose a very great risk to anybody. Neurotoxic venoms if swallowed might have some nasty side effects but even they pose little risk in a healthy mouth.
The suggestion that little rattlers can be as deadly as big rattlers is overstated and certainly misses the point that big rattlers aren’t very deadly. Snakebite isn’t something that I’d recommend to my friends but even the most dangerous bites in North America are not going to kill you. Even without medical attention the fatality rate is less then 10 percent and with treatment almost no one dies. In an average year there are 1500 to 1800 snake bites in the U.S. and 6 or 7 deaths. Most deaths result from untreaded bites and allergic reaction to the serum. In a few cases the venom is injected directly into an artery or vein. Such bites are often fatal.
But let’s get back to the horse serum. Antivenin is able to counteract venom and if applied properly and in a timely fashion it practically eliminates a fairly slight chance of death, reduces the risk of permanent damage and turns a horrendous experience into one that is merely awful. If you are allergic it can kill you when the venom would not. So keep your wits about you and make sure it is done right. This isn’t something you can safely leave to the doctor. Even in areas with large populations of venomous snakes, snake bite is relatively rare. One tenth of one cc is the prescribed skin test but I know of at least one case in which a doctor who had not treated a bite for some time used 1 cc. Not a hard mistake to make but had Jeff been allergic it probably would have been a lethal one. So make sure both you and the doctor read and follow the directions that come with the kits. And don’t think you can skip the test because you previously had no reaction. Rates of reaction increase greatly after an initial exposure to horse serum.
To me the rattlesnakes and their relatives symbolize wilderness in a way few other creatures do. And it annoys me when someone writes about these fascinating creatures and doesn’t take the trouble to get it right.
Marjorie does not give enough details: pattern, where the red is located and so on for a positive ID but it’s safe to say the little red snakes are not baby rattlesnakes which are simply slightly more vivid miniatures of the adults.
Now I realize Arizona has eleven species of rattlesnakes, more than any other state, and that most of them are somewhat variable, others very much so, and although I’ve handled or observed virtually all of the North American poisonous snakes at one time or another but in the field, particularly without some time to observe them, I might not always make a positive identification. However I would not place the timber rattlesnake, an eastern species, in Arizona. If I knew what area the Burris family lived in it would be a little easier to figure out which species she means since some have rather restricted ranges in the state. Several species, particularly if they haven’t shed recently, can look quite dark as adults. The Massasauga produces a fair number of melanistic individuals and these are normally the only truly black rattlesnakes found in Arizona but this species only rarely reaches three feet in length. While people often overestimate the length of snakes, black specimens are not typical of the Massasauga population. Therefore I suspect she is talking about black tailed or western rattlesnakes. Both species have a fair number of individuals with black markings. If I had to guess I’d go with the western since it usually has the overall darker appearance, and dark individuals tend to be common in wooded parts of the range which may give us the timber tie-in. Marjorie seems to garble the identification of the western diamondback and the Mohave also. Other species like the blacktailed and western could be involved also since the 1st is often greenish and the second is sometimes, but the Mohave and western diamondback are the only species with actual diamond markings in Arizona. The two species are often confused. They overlap to some extent but the big difference is size. The western diamondback is the 2nd largest poisonous snake in North America. A five foot specimen is a fairly typical adult. The record is 89 inches. The average Mohave is two or three feet. The record is 51 inches. They never reach five feet. The only other Arizona species to reach five feet is the western and that would be a nearly record specimen.
I have to give Marjorie some credit for trying to dispel the myths that rattlesnakes always rattle before they bite and that snakes swallow their young to protect them.
But then she falls victim to some other myths. Rattlesnake courtship is interesting but short lived. They don’t form lasting attachments. A number of individuals may be attracted to the same area for food, water, or shelter but they do not travel in pairs. And the estimate of 50 little snakes is a shade high. Over the years when I talked to groups I often asked them how many babies a rattlesnake had at one time. The answer was almost always the same as Marjorie’s 50 to 100. This story is so common that I suspect that it affects the perception of naturalists. I’ve often seen 10 or 12 suggested as the average litter but having watched a good many births in captivity and one in the wild I suspect that 6-8 is more typical and 4 or 5 as common as 10 or 12, even 20 would be exceptional. The 50 to 100 figure is probably based on the exploits of garter snakes. One female established a record of 126 births and I kept a female who had 79 but even with garter snakes 20 or 30 is more typical.
Finally I don’t know what to make of the hose story. I suspect it was included for the entertainment value. This is the serpentine equivalent of an urban legend. I’ve heard this story a hundred times. But it does not add up. Snakes bite for only two reasons: to get food and defend themselves. A garden hose laying on the ground isn’t a likely candidate for either reason. Besides, while a rattler striking from the classic coiled position can hit with tremendous force and may leave a bruise even if it does not inject venom, they are not likely to have the power to pierce a hose by simply raising their head and biting. When I worked at Reptiland we had an outdoor pit with hundreds of rattlesnakes and copperheads and one hose. The hose was never bitten or if it was we didn’t see it and they certainly never caused any leaks.
I know this letter is harsh and this article actually was better than many I’ve seen, but you folks should have higher standards.
Rattlesnakes don’t need false drama. These are incredible critters. Rattlesnakes and all other pit vipers are basically nocturnal with elliptical pupils (cat like) for night vision. Pit vipers are distinguished from true vipers (found only in the old world) by loreal pits heat sensitive organs. They look sort of like extra nostrils, located on each side of the face between the eye and the nostril. These organs are so sensitive that pit vipers can locate prey on the darkest of nights, in fact in a zero light environment. While chiefly nocturnal, activity for most members of this group center around dawn and dusk but under certain circumstances they may be encountered during daylight hours. This is most common late and early in the season when the nights are too cool for much hunting or movement. Sometimes they are encountered after a rainstorm, perhaps because flash flooding has washed them out of their shelters or because the rain has increased the activity of prey species, or both. But just as some snakes with good day vision may be active at night, some with night vision exploit opportunities during daylight hours. In Arizona the black tailed and tiger rattlesnakes are the species most likely to be encountered in the daytime during normal conditions. The other rattlesnake species found in Arizona are the rock, speckled, sidewinder, twin spotted, and ridgenosed.
As a point of fact there are three other venomous snakes in Arizona: the rear fanged Sonora lyre and night snakes and the Arizona coral snake. Despite having by far the most toxic venom in North America, coral snakes are small with short fixed fangs, rarely bite, and when they do, seldom inject much venom. You almost have to handle them to be bitten at all. The truth is most bites occur when some one is trying to catch or kill the snake in question. Carelessly stepping on them is the second most common cause of bites. Bites of the rear fanged species are not considered dangerous, but little research has been done on toxicity of the venom and this may be due simply to the poor delivery system.
Despite a common belief that poisonous snakes are out there laying for people, nothing could be farther from the truth. None of these species are truly aggressive although some will stand their ground, particularly if caught in the open. However, if you leave them alone they are more than happy to return the favor.
If you are bitten by a hemotoxically venomous snake you will know almost immediately if venom was injected (dry bites are fairly common). The venom causes a burning sensation very much like a very bad bee sting. Swelling also starts rapidly. Limbs may eventually reach 3 or 4 times their normal size, sometimes more. In the worst cases skin and flesh may split from the pressure. Secondary infections may be a problem.
If you are alone and must travel, walk, don’t run and stay calm. This is real life, not the movies, so while you may soon wish you were dead, in the end you will recover. As bad as snake bite is you can treat them badly and still live, one reason that really bad treatments have remained popular for long periods of time. The patients mistakenly believe they were living as a result, not in spite of them.
Finally, I think I said that before, I’d like to teach the tender hearted George and his instructor the proper way to catch and handle rattlesnakes. Noosing is not only likely to injure or even kill the snake, it makes them frantic which can be bad for the handler if he loses control. And only idiots put snakes on ice. Remember Marjorie mentioned that it can cause frostbite in people. Even when that doesn’t happen or isn’t serious, specimens handled in such a way often develop pneumonia. Ice does not help while you are confining the animal and once properly boxed or bagged isn’t required to keep them confined. Rattlesnakes aren’t monsters but part of our wild heritage. And one of our earliest American symbols. Remember the “don’t tread on me” flag from the Revolutionary War.
Thanks for letting me vent.