Community Memories... Rattlesnake strikes while hunting squirrels

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The late Gene Tujetsch, who died in 2007, served in the Army during World War II, and was employed by the United States Post Office as Postmaster in Guttenberg. (Photo submitted)

In an effort to preserve the history of Guttenberg and its surrounding rural community, The Guttenberg Press will periodically feature stories shared or submitted by readers. 

By Gene Tujestch

Submitted by Ann Fariello

This story begins in the year 1939, the year I graduated from high school. 

It starts on a September morning, boarding a train and heading north to the borders of Iowa and Wisconsin for a bit of hunting. 

My friend Duke is waiting for me, and we climb the Mississippi bluffs for some squirrel hunting. We had five of them, and then when walking along the bluff I stepped on a rattlesnake, all coiled and ready to spring. It grabbed the calf of my leg, hanging on long enough to sink its fangs and give me a good shot of venom. I knocked it off my leg and at the same time Duke put a .22 caliber shot off the side of its head. I finished it off with a 410 shotgun. 

We parted as we headed back to the farmhouse to get his Model A Ford. We figured we could divide the distance and get to a doctor faster. Before parting we broke a piece of barb wire off the fence and cut a gash so as to suck out the poison. (As luck would have it I had left my knife back at the farmhouse.) The wire helped open the wound, and Duke finished it, opening it with his teeth. 

Riding along the top of the ridge I saw my buddy coming in the distance. He missed me and started driving away, leaving me in a bad way. I fired my gun in the air, and finally toward the car so that the buckshot landed on the roof and sent him a message. 

Prior to Duke leaving me, we tied the leg above the cut with a tourniquet, loosening it at intervals so as to continue circulation. Also I would drop down and suck the poison out. 

The family where I hunted had 12 children, so Duke's mother called for the kids to bring her live chickens. This was her remedy for snake bite. Slit the chickens' open under the breast and place it on the wound. The pumping of the live chicken, on the wound, would draw out the poison. After about half dozen chickens, the doctor arrived. The first thing I asked the doctor was if he had serum. He said he had, and I felt my prayers being answered. He gave the serum shot, and then we began to talk. 

The many kids looking on began to question the doctor. 'Say docto, you had a case with the hardware man a few years ago?' Doctor hardly commented. I said, "You did doctor?  How is he?" The kids piped up and said he died. 

As the story on the hardware man follows, someone had brought a snake to the hardware store. It was in a glass enclosure, and when feeding the rattlesnake one day it bit him. Instead of going to the doctor, he tried to doctor it himself and by the next day the poison had spread to the point where the doctor could not save him. I might add the doctor was very sad. 

After this I had some questions for the doctor I told him I was lucky he had serum. I asked how long ago he lost the hardware man, and he said five years ago. I asked how long serum was good, and he said about five years. 

In other words he didn't know if it was still good. After calls to my parents for more serum, and finding some, I climbed in the back seat of the doctor's car with a pail and spent the rest of the trip being very sick. The hospital was about 50 miles away, and there I received added serum as I am here today. I never forgot him.

I might add the Mississippi bluffs are rattlesnake country. In fact my friend Duke had perhaps a dozen set of rattles which he would sell at the County Courthouse for a $2 bounty. 

I might add I still have the rattles. 

I dedicate this story to Ann, my daughter, and to her students of whom she speaks highly of.

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