Back in the olden days of the 20th century, in Journalism school, I was taught that ‘dog-bites-man’ was not a newsworthy piece, but on the other hand, ‘man bites dog’ was: that we, as journalists, should look for the unexpected, the unusual.
So when I run into a story like: ‘Cobra-bites-boy-Boy-bites-cobra-back-cobra-dies’, I can’t help but be a little excited.
It turns out that, out of every hundred snake bites in the planet, 85 happen in India. Many also used to happen in Niagara Falls, it seems – but I get ahead of myself.
From the DailyMail: ‘An eight-year-old Indian boy killed a cobra that had wrapped itself around his arm and sank its fangs into his skin by biting it back in a miraculous tale of survival.’
The boy called Deepak was playing outside his family home when the serpent wound itself around his arm and bit him.
‘Fighting through the pain, Deepak furiously shook his arm but couldn’t release the reptile, at which point he decided to give the attacker a taste of its own medicine and viciously sank his own teeth into its body, successfully killing the animal.’
‘The snake got wrapped around my hand and bit me. I was in great pain. […] As the reptile didn’t budge when I tried to shake it off, I bit it hard twice. It all happened in a flash,’
An examination of Deepak’s injury revealed that ‘he sustained a ‘dry bite’, meaning the cobra did not release any venom.’
That was lucky. More than 50k people are killed in India in a year, by snake bites.
In my unofficial capacity as biographer, I was instantly reminded of another boy called Frank, renowned for his ‘serpentine activities’ and who kept getting bitten by snakes.
I want to bring here excerpts of the book ‘Captive: a Mother’s Crusade to Save Her Daughter From a Terrifying Cult’, by Catherine Oxenberg.
“[Me and Frank Parlato went to] Niagara Falls. At ten o’clock on a cold, drizzling night. […] We parked and got out to walk a short distance to the Falls – just as the drizzle turned into a monsoon. By the time we got to the lookout point, we were drenched. […]
‘You know, I used to catch rattlesnakes when I was a kid,’ Frank yelled over the rumbling water. ‘At first, the bite was excruciating. But eventually I got used to it.’
‘Urn, Frank!’ I shouted. ‘How many times did you have to get bitten before you developed a tolerance for it?’
He shrugged. ‘A lot.’
And standing there by the thundering waterfalls, soaking wet, I started to laugh.” […]
Was it any wonder why Frank wasn’t afraid of Keith [Raniere] and his minions? He had inoculated himself against rattlesnake venom; he was like a snake medicine man! He’d harnessed nature’s poison, and it had given him a superpower to fight the Beast! Right there in that moment, I decided I liked Frank—very much. A snake master like him was exactly what I needed to help me fight this unusual battle between good and evil.
‘Hey, Frank!’ I yelled again. ‘Why were you catching the snakes in the first place, especially after they kept biting you? What kid in his right mind would do such a thing?’
Frank looked at me as if what he’d done was the most normal thing in the world for a kid to do.
‘Why, to eat them, of course.’
Yes, sir. Frank was the man for this job.”