If you're too drunk to distinguish a rattlesnake from an alligator, you have no business messing with reptiles of any kind.
Michael Adams, 28, learned that lesson the hard way last Saturday during a kayaking booze cruise on the Edisto River in South Carolina. Adams was on an annual four-day float with family and friends when he spotted what he thought was a 'gator, and made the ill-advised decision to pick it up.
"When somebody yelled they'd seen an alligator, he decided he was going to go after it and it turned out to be a snake and he still grabbed it,” Adam's cousin Kyle Colquitt told FoxCarolina.com. "He reached in, grabbed it and it bit him three times in the hand.
"He turned around and said, 'Well, it bit me,' and we started paddling."
Inexplicably, Adams did not let go of the rattlesnake, even as his hand began to swell. Rattlesnake bites are rarely fatal, but then again, most people let go after the first nibble. Adams was struck three times, and it's a good bet the terrified snake unloaded all the venom at its disposal. Adam's condition quickly became critical.
The group paddled about 10 minutes to the nearest house, where they came ashore and called 911. Medics arrived about 12 minutes later—a speedy response that may have saved Adam's life.
"He's got the snake in his hand, goes running up into these people's yard," Colquitt said. "While he's still holding it you could start to see his lips start to swell and his neck swelling and his hand and arm swelling all the way up."
According Colleton County Fire and Rescue officials, Adam's condition greatly deteriorated en route to the hospital, where he was treated with anti-venom in the emergency department and then moved to intensive care. The next morning he was flown in critical condition to a medical center in Charleston, S.C., where he spent the day attached to breathing machines.
Adams, an Army veteran from Anderson, South Carolina, is likely to make a full recovery, though doctors told his family he might suffer some nerve damage in the stricken hand. If he needs help to hold his beer he'll just have to ask.
Original reports were that the snake had dropped into the kayak from an overhanging tree, but Adam's brothers soon set the record straight. Grabbing that snake—and not letting go—is just what Colquit would expect from his cousin, who he describes with great fondness as "a glorious idiot."
"He's fun to be around. A great guy, big heart, but if something stupid is about to happen he's probably going to be the one doing it."
Speaking of stupid, we'll take this opportunity to remind everyone not to mix alcohol and paddling, and always wear a lifejacket. Also, leave snakes, 'gators and other wildlife alone.
"I would hope that he learns some kind of lesson, I really do," says brother Jesse "Cody" Anderson. "But I doubt it."
As for the annual booze cruise, it's still on for next year. After all, it's a family tradition.