It seems like only yesterday I was waiting for the announcer to say, “From out of the clear blue of the western sky comes Sky King!” Then came the thrilling sound and sight of Songbird, his twin-engine Cessna, followed by the even more thrilling view of Penny, his cute teenage niece.
The only episode I recall, and it’s quite vague, is of someone getting bitten by a rattlesnake. Schuyler and Penny rescued him in dramatic fashion, preserving a perfect record of their weekly adventures. Good guys and gals always came out ahead back then, a storyline I still strongly prefer.
The menacing image of that TV rattler prompted me to order a snake bite kit. I kept it in my tackle box, thinking the most likely place to need it was while fishing in a pond or on a creek bank. Sometimes, though, I’d put it in the front pocket of my Levi jeans, confidently prepared for a possible encounter. I wasn’t looking for trouble but was ready if trouble came looking for me.
Two rubber suction cups fit snugly together and were designed for extracting venom. Packed tightly inside the cups was a razor, a tiny bottle of antiseptic, and a shoelace style tourniquet. The kit was used only once in what admittedly was not a full-blown emergency. It was featured in a demonstrative talk in Mrs. Zeb Lackey’s Speech 101 class at Valdosta State College.
My presentation didn’t work out as well as expected. Dennis Mills, a close friend in the class, played the role of victim. I applied the tourniquet to his arm and sterilized the two dots drawn on his hand. Dennis, however, wouldn’t keep still for the incisions. Mrs. Lackey gave me a B plus, more for the entertainment value than quality of deliverance.
The rubber cups had almost dry-rotted by that time. Although they were useless, I was hesitant to discard a childhood treasure, even though medical experts had begun recommending victims seek professional assistance rather than relying on nervous amateurs. It was obvious my opportunity for a starring role in a snake drama had passed.
Reminiscing about my snake bite kit reminded me of an old story about two middle-aged fellows, Jim and Bob, on a camping trip in the mountains. Jim, while answering nature’s call, was bitten on the southernmost part of his behind, smack dab in the middle of the Great Divide. The highly venomous culprit was a copperhead-diamondback, a rare moccasin-rattlesnake crossbreed. Bob ran as fast as he could three miles down the steep trail to an emergency phone they had passed earlier.
He called for help but was told it would take too long for anyone to get there. “The only way to save him,” said a local doctor with decades of experience, “is to make an incision at the site of the bite and suck the venom out. Otherwise,” he soberly added, “your friend is going to die.”
Bob trudged up the rocky incline, bearing the heavy load of a troubled mind. He found Jim gasping for air and struggling to remain conscious. “What’d you find out?” Jim asked in whispered desperation.
Looking deeply into his old pal’s pleading eyes, Bob tenderly wiped the sweat from Jim’s forehead with his handkerchief. “You’re my best friend, Jim, and I love you like a brother. It breaks my heart to tell you this, but the doctor said you’re going to die.”
It seems like only yesterday Penny King came to Macon, Georgia. I think it was for the annual March of Dimes telethon that was always carried on Channel 13 WMAZ, but that’s mostly a guess. Our family went to see her, but a close-up encounter led to a shattered dream.
I knew Penny was a few years ahead of me, but I was tall for my age so there was a faint hope of future romance. It was a shocker to see a grown woman, somewhere in her thirties I supposed, wearing the teenage Penny’s cowboy hat. Perhaps it was a blessing to find out early TV characters are not forever young. It softened the blow years later of seeing Ellie Mae Clampett as a senior citizen.
It seems like only yesterday Penny King had stolen my young heart. But a long time ago in Macon, Georgia, I figured things weren’t going to work out. And when a young man in Valdosta reluctantly tossed his snake bite kit into the trash, he knew in his heart their love would never be.