Fighting Snakes


Jay Rathman was hunting deer in the Tehama Wildlife area in northern California. He climbed to the ledge of a rocky gorge. As he raised his head to look over the ledge he felt movement to the right of his face. A four foot coiled rattlesnake struck with lightning speed, just missing his right ear.

The snake’s fangs snagged in the neck of Rathman’s wool turtleneck sweater and the force of the strike caused it to land on his left shoulder. It then coiled around his neck.

Startled, Rathman instinctively grabbed the snake behind the head with his left-hand. He could feel the warm venom running down the skin on his neck, the rattles making a furious racket. Rathman and the snake fell backward down the rocky gorge through brush and lava rocks. His rifle and binoculars bounced beside them.

As luck would have it, Rathman said in describing the incident to the department of Fish and Game official, “I ended up wedged between some rocks with my feet caught uphill from my head. I could barely move.”

He said he got his right hand on his rifle and used it to disengage the fangs from his sweater, but the snake had enough leverage to strike again.

Rathman said, “He made about 8 attempts and managed to hit me with his nose just below my eye about four times. I kept my face turned so he couldn’t get a good angle with his fangs, but it was very close. This chap and I were eyeball to eyeball and I found out that snakes don’t blink. He had fangs like darning needles. I had to choke it to death. It was the only way out. I was afraid that with all the blood rushing to my head I might pass out.”

The incident lasted 30 minutes.

When Rathman tried to cast the snake’s dead body aside he could not let go. He said, “I had to pry my fingers from its neck.”

He carried the viper into the Rangers station and said, “I have a problem with your wildlife around here.”

When I heard that story I thought, man, isn’t’ that how life can be. Cruising along, doing your own thing and suddenly you are eyeball to eyeball with a snake.

Your snake might be a difficult problem, or a difficult person. But it wraps its coils around you and you can’t seem to get free. Here’s a verse to remember next time it happens:

(Luke 10:19) “Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall injure you.

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