… in the right amounts venom, especially neurotoxic venom, is good for you. Bill Haast of the Miami Serpentarium lived to be 101 after taking shots of venom every day. He never had a sick day in his life and survived 197 snakebites. He is a legend.
I heard about Haast from my pen-friend and journalistic inspiration Dan Mannix, one of the best writers on animals in his time, an unusual rebel from a Main Line Pennsylvania family, who wrote among other things All Creatures Great and Small, The Wolves of Paris, The Fox and the Hound (Disneyfied into a silly children’s cartoon), and The Killers, as well as ones on pop culture subjects like carnivals seen from the inside (Step Right Up). In the forties, Dan and Jule Mannix, then
living at an expensive Manhattan address, started in this strange business when they were forced by circumstance
to obtain and train two eagles, a Bald (“Pre-Act”- remember both
species were shot as pests into the Sixties) , and a Golden to hunt iguanass in Mexico
and write about them. He was as usual ahead of his time; later, Harry Crews and Gordon Grice would make a literary genre out of such things, writing about tattoos, toxic and dangerous animals, Carneys and chickenfights in such venues as Esquire even as Mannix had pioneered before them in Argosy and True.*
In the Seventies Betsy and I were living in an apartment complex in Newton, Mass. Upstairs lived a faded Grande Dame from Philadelphia with a kind heart and a wealth of complicatedly pinned up hair. She stopped us on the stairs one day when we were carrying in a Merlin, and stopped us to examine the bird. She nodded and said “Many, MANY years ago my sorority housemate had one of those, but it was rather LARGER.”
Suddenly inspired, I made the correct guess: “Was your housemate Jule Mannix?
Surprised, she said “Yes..?”
“Then it was a Bald eagle, and yes, it was bigger than this one!”
*Sublit? They were considered so by snobs then. But certainly my long-term correspondent Geoffrey Household, whose Watcher in the Shadows I first read in Argosy when I was eleven, whose publisher was Atlantic Monthly, who first mentioned the works of his “fellow pirate” Patrick Leigh Fermor to me, and who last wrote to me the week of his death, was not considered so. And John D Macdonald’s dead-on Florida portraits , which I discovered in Darker Than Amber back then in that venue, got a real second wind when rediscovered by new literati like Jim Harrison in the late 60’s.