By JAYSON JACOBY
email@example.comBenjamin Soyster pedals a plastic big wheel in the rambunctious and reckless manner of the typical three-year-old boy, which is precisely what Benjamin was until the rattlesnake’s fangs pierced his soft skin and injected toxic venom into his bloodstream.
One fang sank into the middle finger of Benjamin’s right hand.
The other fang struck the ring finger on the same hand.
It happened one week ago, about 5 in the afternoon of May 15, while Benjamin played in the yard of his family’s home in Monument. That’s a Grant County town, population 150, beside the North Fork of the John Day River, about 63 miles north of John Day.
Benjamin reached out to grab this tan-colored thing. He thought it was a toy that his family’s dog, Lucky, a border collie/Australian shepherd, likes to play with.
The tan-colored thing was no dog toy.
It was a foot-long rattlesnake.
Benjamin ran into the house, screaming. He told his dad, Norman, that a snake had bitten him. Venom seeped from the pair of puncture wounds. Benjamin’s hand began to swell.
Five minutes later he was riding in an ambulance, rolling toward Blue Mountain Hospital in John Day.
Six days after that, on Monday, Benjamin was aboard the big wheel, careening along the concrete path in the front yard of his grandma Terri Reed’s house in Baker City.
Benjamin was simultaneously searching the ground for bugs.
And trying to persuade his mom, Becky, to pull him in a wagon.
Basically Benjamin was doing a lot of things, none of of which involved standing still.
“He’s doing fine, as you can tell,” Becky Soyster, 29, said, smiling as she watched Benjamin, the middle of her three sons, dart around the yard. “He’s back to his normal self.
“Our little miracle boy.”
After the Soysters moved from Redmond to Monument in December, longtime Monument residents regaled the couple with tales about the rattlesnakes, Becky said.
The venomous snakes, it seems, thrive around Monument. Probably the reptiles relish the climate. Monument sits in a banana belt of sorts, low in the river valley; one of Eastern Oregon’s bigger fruit orchards is just 14 miles downstream at Kimberly.
The average temperature at Monument is 50.6 degrees — six degrees warmer than at Long Creek, which is just 24 miles to the east but, at 3,754 feet elevation, about 1,750 feet higher than Monument.
The snake stories worried the Soysters, Becky said. But they weren’t panicked or anything.
And everyone in the family agreed on one thing, Reed said.
“If any of the boys ever got bitten by a snake it would be Ben,” she said on Monday.
The eldest of the Soysters’ sons, Levi, is 5, but he can’t quite match Benjamin’s combination of curiosity and boundless energy.
Samuel, at five months old, is too little to get into much trouble outside.
“Benjamin is our rumble, tumble outside-all-the-time boy,” Becky said. “We can’t keep him inside. And he’s not afraid of animals.”
Including, apparently, reptiles.
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