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The Tragedy Of The White Tanks
by [?]

“I do not believe,” said the curiosity dealer, “that the bite of the gila monster is fatal. It is poisonous, no doubt, and there have been one or two cases of death where persons have been bitten by it, but it is always well to remember that the teeth themselves may be in a condition to produce blood-poisoning, which might cause death without the assistance of any particular toxic venom. The rattlesnake, however, which is rather too common in the desert, is a different sort of a chap. If he strikes you, you may just as well make your will, and chirp your death song, as to monkey with physicians, and squander some of the good wealth which may be useful to your family.”

I asked him if he did not believe in the efficacy of some of the so-called Indian snake cures.

“There are lots of Indian remedies,” he continued, “and snake charmers’ cures for rattlesnake bites, which are, in my opinion, all poppy-cock. It is claimed that the Moquai Indians, during their Snake Dance, allow rattlesnakes to bite them, and after applying the juice of a certain herb suffer no ill effects from the poison. This may be all right, but the antidote is considerable of a secret, and you cannot buy it at your druggist’s.

“There was a chap over in France who claimed to have produced an anti-venomous serum which was a sure cure for the poison of a rattlesnake, or any other old snake which you might want to have bite you. I squandered five dollars of my hard-earned wealth in sending for a bottle. This chap lives at Lille, France, and manufactures his serum at the Pasteur Institute at that place. He gives careful directions as to how much to use, and just how to use it, and it may be all right with some snakes which have the reputation of being bad, but it don’t go with our rattlers. I tried it in all sorts of ways. I tried to get a Mexican to experiment on, but couldn’t. None of them had much faith in the cure–not enough to let a healthy snake bite ’em for five dollars.

“Then I tried dogs. I got three curs, all in robust health. The first one died in fifteen minutes after being struck by a big rattlesnake which I had in a box, although I injected him with a carefully measured dose of the serum. Another one lived several hours, and made a hard struggle. I thought at one time he might pull through, but it was no use. He joined his friend in dog heaven after giving his final kick four hours and fifteen minutes after he and the snake had been introduced to each other.

“The third one was a half-breed bull bitch with lots of vitality. I tried to make this one immune by injecting a dose of the serum twenty-four hours before, and again immediately after she was struck by the snake, but she did not do as well as the other one, and died in three hours and sixteen minutes. All these dogs seemed to die from inability to breathe. The poison apparently acts on the respiratory centres rather than directly on the heart. They all vomited just before they died.”

“Have you never found out what the Indians use as an antidote?” I asked.

“No, I have tried, but they keep it a carefully guarded secret. One reason why I believe that the secret is so carefully preserved is because they have no antidote, and the whole thing is a bluff.

“You see,” continued the collector, “in my wanderings about the country I have run across a great many queer people, and as you seem interested in this subject, I will tell you an incident which happened while I was out at camp one time at the White Tanks, catching gila monsters, horned toads, etc.