The first thing Eric Ebinger noticed was a “pin prick” on his thigh. Then he looked down and saw the rattlesnake.
When he got bit on June 23, Eric and his 10-year-old son Rio, both of the Arlee area, were about a 30-minute upstream paddle on the Main Stem of the Flathead River from Highway 200, near Perma.
The two had been setting up camp along the river bank, and Eric had squatted down to prop up his fishing pole when he felt the bite.
Right away, Eric says, “It was like a huge headrush, my heart was pounding, my adrenline was pumping, and I felt tingly all over.”
“He said ‘dang it’ a couple times,” Rio says.
Eric realized that in short order, he wouldn’t be able to do much to help himself, and would have to rely on his son.
“Hey, listen,” Eric says he told his son. “I’m going to lay down in the raft, and you have to get it together and get me to the hospital.”
“I thought my dad was gonna die, but then he told me that it was gonna be alright,” Rio says.
The two loaded into their raft and Rio started rowing as the effects of the venom began to take hold.
“He was acting kind of weird,” Rio says. “His hat was on his head and he said, ‘Where’s my hat?’ and he just asked me if I could get his hat for him.”
After a half-hour of upstream rowing, Rio finally reached an embankment that delivered them to Highway 200.
From there, Eric says, he was able to get reception on his cellphone and call a friend, who lives nearby.
On June 25, he returned home from a 48-hour stay at the Clark Fork Valley Hospital, his leg swollen to “the size of a watermelon,” and still slurring his speech. He says it took four shots of antivenin for him to recover.
Without Rio’s help, he says, “I’m not sure I could have made it.”