Jenkins survived moccasin bite

Published 8:48 am Wednesday, June 29, 2005

By By LYDIA GRIMES-Features writer
Times, they are a changing! Nothing brings that old saying to mind more than hearing someone talk about "the good ole days."
Lucius Jenkins has been around for the last 80 years, and he has seen a lot of things change – for him and for everyone else. He walked into The Brewton Standard office one day and handed over a story about a time when he was six years old. It is a story that many older citizens can relate to and for the younger readers, it shows a way of life long gone.
He called his story "Coming Up the Ruff Side of the Mountain." He sat and told his tale.
He was born June 10, 1925, in Oak Hill, Ala., which he calls "the sandy hills of Wilcox County."
In 1931, when he was only six years old, he helped his father in the corn field hauling corn. He walked through the fields in his bare feet and sometimes it was rough going. The cockle burrs were plentiful and painful to step on. For those who are not familiar with cockle burrs, they are somewhat like a sand spur, only bigger.
That morning the cockle burrs were especially bad. He had stepped on several already by 9:30 in the morning, but the last time he put his foot down on what he thought was a cockle burr, it turned out to be what he called a "copper belly water moccasin."
The snake was about four feet long and was stuck to his foot where it had bitten him. He ran to his "poppa," who was throwing corn on the wagon and told him what had happened. He said his poppa ran across the field to find the snake, and he beat it to death with some corn stalks. Someone else came along with a hatchet and his poppa cut the snake into small pieces. Apparently there was a reason for the snake being cut into small pieces. It was believed that a piece of the snake placed on bite would keep it from swelling.
He said the snake piece was wrapped in a corn shuck, and his poppa held it to the site of the bite. He sent another man, who was working with him, on ahead on a mule to get the doctor, who was about three miles away. In the meantime, Jenkins was placed on another mule, which just happened to be completely blind. They made it to the house about the same time that Dr. Boykin arrived. (For those who don't know, doctors used to make house calls. Imagine that.) The doctor told them to take the snake off his foot and go to the health doctor in Camden as quickly as they could.
His poppa owned a Model T Ford at the time, so they loaded up and drove to the gas station.
"Momma had six bits and they put two gallons of gas into the car," Jenkins said. "That cost them 50 cents." (Two bits equaled a quarter and four bits was fifty cents.)
Jenkins said the drive to the doctor in Camden was 15 miles on a dirt road. By that time it was about 12:30 p.m. which meant that Jenkins had been suffering from a bite for about three hours.
When the snake-bitten boy arrived in Camden, the doctor was out to lunch. In those days, the doctor took a little nap after lunch before going back to work. By the time he got back to his office it was 2 p.m. Jenkins was given a shot and they asked him if he wanted some water.
"This was the first time that I ever had ice cold water," he said. "I had three glasses of it."
The bite was treated and probably the only thing that pulled him through was his good health, he said. The leg began to draw back under him so his poppa devised a weight to pull his foot back down. When that didn't work he devised a stick to use as a stint. He finally got better but it was three weeks before he could put any pressure on his foot and before that he managed to get around some on his tip toes.
"Now I am 80-years-old," Jenkins said. "I am still here after surviving a bite by a copper belly moccasin that should have killed me at the tender age of six and not receiving a doctor's help for more than three and one half hours. Everyone in the area where I lived came to see the boy who was bitten by the deadly snake and survived."
Jenkins was one of six children and grew up on a farm in Wilcox County. He went to school through the fourth grade and then went to work on the farm. At the age of 15 he got his first taste of the timber business. There was a lady who needed a tree cut into pieces and he took the job.
"It was a beech tree and they are very hard to cut," Jenkins said. "She paid me 50 cents for the day's work and fed me my lunch. The lunch consisted of butterbeans, peas, corn and iced tea. When I got home my mother asked me how much I got paid and then she took 25 cents of it to buy some meat to go in the collard greens."
At 17, he got a job as a wage hand on two plantations in Wilcox County making $12 per month. At the end of three years he was earning $15 a month. This was during the time of World War II, and he was exempt from serving because he had high blood pressure. He was good with mules and got a job with a sawmill earning $3 a day until it went out of business. He continued to work in the sawmill business in some way for the next few years except for a time when he worked in a brick yard and the one year that he ran his father's farm.
He came to Brewton in 1956 and went to work at T.R. Miller Mill Company and worked there for the next 33 years doing a little bit of everything.
During these years he was married to Mattie Ellis, and they became the parents of seven children who blessed them with numerous grandchildren.
Jenkins spends a lot of his time doing landscape work at First Progressive Bank where he has looked after the shrubs and flowers for the last 11 years. He is very active in Second Saint Siloam Missionary Baptist Church where he sings in the choir and used to teach Sunday School.
That little boy who got bit by a deadly snake in 1932 has indeed been lucky and he has not forgotten how lucky he is.

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