David Locke has killed many snakes in his life, but when the copperhead he was trying to finish off Thursday afternoon bit him on his hand, he found himself on the losing end.
Locke, who lives south of Dalton off of Frazier Drive off Old Dixie Highway, said one of his distant relatives called him for help when she ran over a snake near his home with her vehicle. Locke said he held the snake down with a stick and was prepared to strike its head with a jack handle. While he was still in mid-motion, the reptile reached up and struck his hand.
One fang found the top of his hand, and the other, perhaps an inch-and-a-half away, hit between his first two fingers.
“I’ve had 28 major surgeries in my life, and nothing compares to the pain that those snakes lay on you,” Locke said as he recovered in intensive care at Hamilton Medical Center Friday evening.
Locke said he tried to take care of the snake in the first place because he was concerned about neighborhood children happening up on it and getting hurt. Now, he wants to raise awareness about how dangerous snakes can be.
He hopes his story will help keep other people safe, and he hopes kids who get on and off the school bus in grassy areas remember to look around for danger. Had he not tried to remove the snake, Locke believes one of the neighborhood kids might have easily come up on it.
“I used to pick them up when I was a kid,” he said of snakes. “Just let your kids and people know that if they see a snake, call someone that is a professional to take care of the matter. The pain is unbearable ...”
According to an article from North Carolina State University’s Cooperative Extension, copperhead bites are not usually fatal, but the venom can destroy tissue and cause secondary infection. “Many people are bitten while trying to kill or handle the snake. Don’t take chances — avoid these snakes,” the article states at www.ces.ncsu.edu.
Locke’s wife, Melissa, said she praises God her husband is still alive.
“He has picked up 100 snakes and killed them, and this time, I don’t know what happened,” she said. “It happened at my driveway, and they said if he’d even tried to walk back to the house it would have killed him.”
David Locke said the relative who called him to kill the snake was there to drive him back to the house so he could get help, and he was able to wrap the area in a tourniquet to slow the venom’s spread.
How much damage the snakebite will leave behind isn’t known yet, but Locke said he was still in a lot of pain.
The snake, unfortunately, got away. As for Locke, the next time he has to kill a snake he’ll have a firearm with him, he said, and he’ll shoot it from a distance.