August 22, 1918
By Elsie Lenton Corwin

Many exciting things happened in Alder Creek Canyon and nearby during the early and work loaded years of homesteading the Loomis Ranch. Not the least of these was Mother Loomis’ incredible encounter, in 1918, with the big rattlesnake. That was just one of those things that shouldn’t have happened at all.

Being always interested in the world around her, one of Mother Loomis’ great hobbies was that of collecting odd and interesting pieces of bark and wood and many varieties of pine cones. In fact she still has a piece of root that looks just like a stork! These trophies were hung from the rafters and were arranged on mantle and window sills to give the home cabin a pleasing “woodsy” look. As you will know, because you are camping here, many of these are still in the Lodge where the family hung them thru the years. Indeed I expect some of those big cones have been hanging there between thirty and forty years now!

Well, let’s get back to my story, as Mother Loomis told it to me. Captain and she had been camping up on the mountain at their gold mine for a few days working there. In the early days part of the family living came from mining and extracting the gold in their own Arrastra, but that is still another story. Living on the ranch at this time with his grandparents was Lester Thomas, aged six. One day, for a change, Mother Loomis and Lester decided to ride down Arrastra canyon to see what they could find to add to her collections.

They packed a big fine lunch and set out early. Mother Loomis riding here horse, Old Joe and Lester on one of the burrow. They were expecting to make a full day’s trip and had also taken three or other burros with them to carry back all the interesting things they hoped to find, roots, bark in odd shapes and textures, pine cones and especially pretty rocks.

When they were about four miles from home, they dismounted and were leading the animals while Mother Loomis was having a wonderful time hunting for special peaces of bark. Lester’s sport of the moment was throwing rocks at just everything and anything in site. Both were happy as larks, although the day was pretty warm, for this was on the twenty-second of August.

After hunting a while, Mother Loomis saw a particularly beautiful piece of bark. At least that’s what she thought at first glance! As always, anxious to add to her collection she quickly reached down to pick it up. Well what do you think? It certainly was a very special specimen – for my goodness-it wasn’t bark at all, but a real live rattlesnake; and there he was hanging on her finger! Four beautiful, long feet of him! And he just didn’t like having his nap disturbed one little bit, so, snake fashion, he bit her and his bite was full of poison!

Rattlesnakes only bite in self defense, you know, only when someone bothers them. That’s why we stay on the trails and don’t reach into holes or brush piles or anywhere that we can’t see because we just don’t want to disturb the snakes. Then everyone is happier, including Mr. And Mrs. Rattle. But, Mother Loomis was so anxious for her piece of bark that she forgot all about being careful and the snake bit her. I guess that taught her a lesson she didn’t soon forget!

Well here they were four miles from home, only a little boy to help and no snake kit. Snake bites are terribly painful and many people just can’t stand them at all, but Mother Loomis knew that she must be careful and not get excited or she surely would never make it home. He calmness and courage are probably what saved her life. She had only one thought – to get back to the Captain for help. So leaving the horses and burros behind, because the burros travel so slowly, the two began to slowly and painfully make their way home. When they weren’t too far away she sent Lester on ahead to find his Grandpa.

When the Captain saw Lester coming on alone he, of course, guessed that something had gone very wrong. He quickly called out, “Where’s Mother”? Everyone called her Mother and still do.

“Oh”, said Lester importantly, “She’s coming – rattlesnake bit her”. Needless to say the Captain rushed to fill his pockets with First Aid Equipment and struck right out at a fast pace to find his wife. He knew that she was pretty wonderful, but he wasn’t just sure what she would do when bitten by a rattlesnake. It imagine no one would unless it really happened to them.

However when the Captain reached her she had already come so near home that it seemed best just to help her on in the rest of the way. Once having been on the Los Angeles Police force he was a trained First Aider. Mother Loomis had been quick thinking enough to use her belt for a tourniquet when she was first bitten. So he lanced it, soaked it and massaged it. Since there was no way to get to a doctor, but to ride horseback over the mountain trails, they decided to wait until evening for the august heat on the trail would be dangerous to a snake bite victim.

When evening came her whole are was badly swollen, but much of the venom had been removed by the Captain’s treatment. So again they decided to wait and go in the morning, for a horseback ride didn’t sound like much fun right then. We.., by now, maybe you can guess what happened in the morning. Mother Loomis just shrugged her shoulder and said, “Oh, well, it’s much better I don’t see any use of going over those hills to a Doctor now.” And she just stayed home!

Later, after she had been taken care of, Captain Loomis went back to get the burros. And what do you know? That silly snake was till there right where she told him she had dropped him when she shook the snake loose from her finger. I guess he wasn’t a very smart snake or he would have run far away, for, of course, the Captain killed him. He brought the snake home dead and took him up to Mother Loomis saying, “Do you want him?” However, she hastened to reply, “No thank you.” “I’ve had all I want of him.”

But no rattlesnake could shake the courage of Mother Loomis and the Captain had proved, as he had many times before, that he was a mighty find Doctor in time of emergency. And she still tells this story about her misadventure faithfully, but a little sheepishly too.

[Source: The True Loomis Stories by Elsie Lenton Corwin, Wandalee Thompson Collection (2006.38.1)]