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Blog Parenting from the voice of experience.
A Lesson in Preparedness

Last weekend’s family picnic was nice, but, well, it was no picnic. Right out of the car, I noticed a baby rattlesnake, which put me on high alert. My 3-year-old and her older sisters were playing near the creek with my wife, and I could imagine them picking up the wrong ‘stick.’

Our baby daughter was sleeping in the car seat at the campsite while my nieces and nephews roasted hotdogs over the fire. After a few minutes of scanning the campsite for anything that slithered, I figured I had better fix a few dogs for my younger girls. As I was reaching across the table to get a bun, I jolted from a searing pain in my forearm. Someone had left a hot roasting stick on the table.

In a surprising sense of (relative) calm I stomped around the site shaking my arm until I reached the ice chest. I grabbed a handful of ice and rubbed it on the wound until the ice melted away. The cold hurt almost as badly as the burn, but it seemed to help, so I grabbed more ice and did it again.

We finished our meal, played in the water, and had a great time enjoying what my 3-year-old called the jungle. While my girls and I were busy throwing rocks in the creek, I took a minute to dip my arm in the cold water once more to soothe the throbbing.

It was about a half hour drive home, and the pain seemed to get worse the longer we were in the car. As soon as I got the kids into the house, I washed up and ran cold water over the burn again for several minutes, then sprayed it with a burn ointment we keep on hand for these sorts of events. (I’m accident-prone. We’ve had no choice but to prepare.) The blisters only lasted about a day this time, and it’s healing quite nicely. But it got me thinking. What if it had been one of my daughters? Could we have prepared better to avoid that accident?

Next time, I’m going to set up an area just for used roasting sticks—someplace other than the picnic table. I also plan to bring the first aid kit from the car to the campsite so we can have quick access to bandages and ointments. While I’m at it, I think I’ll set up a safe zone around the campfire and make sure the kids don’t get any closer to it than they have to. Because, even though fire is fun and useful, it’s also very dangerous. And burns hurt.

As for rattle snakes? I’m already researching snake chaps for the whole family.