Chasing Snakes

“I’m going to die! I’m going to die!” Malcolm shouted at the top of his lungs.

Although I left my childhood home of Las Vegas, Nevada, many years ago, my mother still keeps me up to date. She recently informed me that Sister Batson had passed away. It made me stop and ponder the influence of Church leaders like her on my life.

Sister Batson, our Blazer leader, was preparing us to become deacons. She faithfully took us on monthly hikes. One hike was down a dry desert wash toward Lake Mead. Sister Batson stayed with the stragglers while five or six of us forged ahead. We were quite a distance ahead when we heard something. It was a baby rattlesnake, coiled and ready to strike. Rather than giving it plenty of room, we found some sticks and began poking at it. The snake took off across the desert. Naturally we took off after it, running as fast as our legs would carry us, chasing that snake. We cornered it against the side of a gulch where it coiled with its one rattle making as much noise as it could. We formed a semicircle around the snake, and on the count of three, we rushed it.

The first guy in and at the bottom of the pile was Malcolm. Suddenly he exploded out of the pile, throwing us everywhere, and started a panic run across the desert with the snake attached to his hand. We took off after him and succeeded in ankle tackling him. He was screaming and yelling at the top of his lungs, “I’m going to die! I’m going to die!”

We each took a leg and arm to pin him down so we could save his life. We then took out our trusty snakebite kits (which aren’t at all like the ones used today and not to be recommended). They consisted of several suction cups, a shoestring tourniquet, some antibacterial iodine, and a razor blade. The shoestring tourniquet didn’t seem big enough, so we whipped off our Scout belts and placed half a dozen tourniquets up his arm. We then stained his arm brown with the iodine. We decided that the suction cups were not good enough, and we would have to suck the poison out. We were arguing about who got to do the sucking and who got to cut him when Sister Batson arrived. She grabbed Malcolm, threw him over her shoulder, ran back to the van with us right behind her, and got Malcolm to the hospital in time to save his hand.

By the time I got home, my father had found out what happened. He took me to my room, sat me on the end of the bed, and said three words of profound meaning, “Son,” he said, “DON’T CHASE SNAKES!”

So why did I do it? Maybe it was the heat of the moment. Maybe it was because everyone else was doing it. Or maybe it was because I thought I was different. Whatever it was, I hadn’t thought about the consequences of my act until it was too late.

Satan has an amazing ability to disguise snakes. Some snakes are more deadly than others. Some can kill us instantly; others cause minor hurts or injuries. Is it any wonder then, that experienced snake fighters like our bishop, parents, teachers, and advisers become concerned when they see us “chasing snakes” by dressing immodestly, dating people with different standards, becoming too wrapped up in the pursuit of money or possessions, or being disobedient. I have often wondered why it is that many of us insist on chasing snakes and getting bitten instead of heeding the warnings of others who love us and want to help us avoid the pain of snake venom. So next time your parents or advisers say something about what you’re wearing, who you’re dating, or what you’re doing, try not to think of it as someone trying to take away your fun, but rather as someone pointing out that you’re “chasing snakes.”

[illustrations] Illustrated by Dilleen Marsh