ETV Tower and Snakebite

ETV Tower

“How’d you get all that orange and white paint all over you?”

“Oh, I climbed the ETV tower out there on the Dido-Mt. Salem Road and painted the top and put the big light bulbs up there for them.”

“How’d you get that job?”

“I guess they were lookin’ for somebody brave enough to do it, that they didn’t have to pay too much.”

Like the tower of Babel pressing into the heavens, the tower was a local marvel in Choctaw in ’73. Counting site elevation, the tower rises 1,759 feet above sea level.

In the gas station restaurant, locals sipped their weak coffee, munched on their homemade sausage and cheese biscuits, and pontificated about the tower. Curious and with nothing better to do, like they were the builders themselves and like a trip to the county fair, they regularly drove down Dido Road to get an up-close look at progress on the tower. Armed with the latest knowledge they gave the authoritative report next morning at the gas station.

“You know that tower is how ya’ gonna’ see Sesame Street and Mr. Rogers on TV.”

“I don’t know, I think it’s some kinda’ nuclear defense system they ain’t tellin’ us about!”

Curious and secretly annoyed, Moon had engaged in yet another death-defying feat. I ventured, “How’d you do that?”

“Well, I rode the elevator up there about a thousand feet and then I had to get out and climb the rest of the way up, about a hundred more feet and put them big light bulbs on the top. They gave me some tools and a backpack with the lights and bolts in it. They told me they would pay me extra if I painted the top section. That’s that easy money.” MPE!

“So, after I got the lights put on, I climbed back down and got on the elevator and got the paint buckets and stuff and went back up there and painted the upper section.”

“Were you tied in or anything?”

“Well, I was when I was painting, but I didn’t need anything when I was puttin’ the lights on.”

“Why not?”

“That harness just got in my way.”

At that point, I realized Moon had free climbed the last ninety feet of an 1,100-foot tower. My toes tingled as Moon nonchalantly described all the details.

“I couldn’t believe how windy and cool it was up there. I could see all the way to ‘Starts-ville’ and Louisville.”

I wanted to tell him not to volunteer for anything like that anymore, but I knew that’d have been like telling a monkey not to eat bananas.


One day Moon rode up on his three-speed English Racer wearing cutoff blue jeans and an Ole Miss T-shirt. I guess cutoff jeans were the style in the early ’70s, if not for everybody, at least for Moon. Most of Moon’s cutoffs were so threadbare, he could sit on a dime and tell you whether it was heads or tails. I instantly noticed an enormous red and blue bump on the front of his right shin. Like Sherlock Holmes, my young mind analyzed the situation, “Those aren’t just fishin’ legs. Maybe he was bitten by a dog while riding his bicycle?”

Introductory question of my cross-examination, “What happened to your leg!?”

“Oh”, Moon said, casually glancing down at his swollen leg, “I got bit by a water moccasin while I was fishin’ the other day.”

Of course, that was an entirely insufficient explanation. What kid says to that answer, “Oh, okay”, and moves on to conversations about Little League or the weather?”

I asked, “How’d that happen, you’ve always told me snakes won’t bother you when you’re wading?”

“I guess I did say that, but I’ve been wadin’ since I was a kid, and this is the first time I’ve ever been bittin’.”

The huge ugly purple hematoma on full display, his answer wasn’t in the least bit comforting. In fact, it was downright disturbing, so I continued my query.

“Ok, so, how’d it happen!?”

Feigning an air of complete aloofness, Moon deadpanned, “Oh me and Ty went fishin’ at that watershed lake down there near Carrollton on Saturday. Ty waded down one side and I went down the other. I was more than a mile from the car on the east side of the lake and I noticed a water moccasin out there in front of me with its head stickin’ up out of the water.”

Incidentally, an everyday sighting in the south’s numerous lakes, ponds, and rivers. But most people observe them from land, piers or boats. Most wade-fishermen at least have on a pair of waders, offering some protection from underwater brush and snakes. Even then, if they happen to spot a snake, they are likely to rapidly exit the water, loudly articulating their favorite cuss words. That’s when some self-righteous know-it-all, who’d never get in the water with the snakes in the first place, pontificates the common folk myth, “You know water moccasins can’t bite underwater.” The fact is, they can!

I suppose southerners try to comfort one another with such nonsense, otherwise the magnanimous snake infestation would empty all the swim beaches. Stories abound of snakes dropping from limbs into fishing boats, the wary fisherman sinking his boat trying to shoot the terrifying reptile. Moon always clad in his standard, cutoff jeans and old tennis shoes, completely ignores the snakes.

He’s told me a thousand times, “Shane, them snakes won’t bother you and all them waders do is slow you down.”

“Yeah and keep your legs from looking like they’ve been put through a sausage grinder.”

What I really meant had more to do with the snakes, but that would’ve sounded weak.

“That snake went under, and I didn’t think a thing about it. Then I felt this weight on my right leg and I thought I’d gotten tangled in an underwater vine or somethin’. I pulled my leg forward like you do when you’re wadin’ and get tangled up.”

He demonstrated by pushing his leg forward, still sitting atop the bike.

“I did that, but whatever it was just stayed wrapped around my leg. Then it felt like somethin’ was stingin’ me. I lifted my leg and that big ole’ moccasin was coiled up around my leg with his mouth wide open and them fangs stickin’ in there. He had me right here just below the knee, where you see the marks.”

Leaning on the bike, he thrust his leg up for my examination. I saw two bright red marks about an inch apart sunken and enclosed by swollen flesh, slight cuts extending from each mark.

“What in the heck did you do?”

“I grabbed the moccasin behind the head and unwrapped him and through him off.”

Most men’s lives would’ve ended right there from shock or cardiac arrest. Moon followed the Boy Scout handbook he knew from beginning to end better than theologians know the Bible. The only difference is most people read the book assuming they will be administering aid to others, not themselves!

“I waded to shore, and I know you ain’t supposed to do this, but I couldn’t suck the poison out because I couldn’t get my head down to where the bite was.”

He leaned forward again to demonstrate the obvious. “I cut my leg at them fang marks and squeezed it to make it bleed. That’s the way you get the poison out of there when you can’t suck it.”

I now realized I was receiving in depth instructions on what to do if I was ever bitten by a snake at some location on my body where I couldn’t suck the poison out. He had my undivided attention!

“I started feelin’ a little nauseous, so I started walkin’ back toward the car.”

I would’ve been puking my guts out, but Moon’s stomach is impervious to most things because of the horrendous things he’s learned to eat while living off the land.

“When I got to the car, I drank a lot of water. That helps the poison not be so concentrated in your bloodstream.”

Moon keeps a supply of “rinsed out” milk jugs filled with water in his truck, always at least one on the front seat. Even today, he’d never consider a Nalgene bottle or Hydro flask when “rinsed out” milk jugs work just fine. Hot water is just as good as cold. MPE.

“I got up there and honked the horn for about ten minutes tryin’ to get Ty to come back. But he never came back. After a while, I started feelin’ better, so I went back fishin’.”

I would have called a search and rescue helicopter, but that was long before cell phones.

“Haven’t you gone to the doctor? You know snake bites can cause terrible infections.”

“All them doctors do is take your money to tell you what you already know.”

Such statements always made me want to argue with him, but I knew it was pointless.

“I’ve been icin’ it and rubbin’ a little of that triple antibiotic salve on it twice a day.”

“Well, that’s good.”

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When I first penned Moon and Sunn I included a truck load of chapter endnotes. I felt I needed to verify just about every historical detail of the entire book! After endless research editor Bobby Ha