By Harold Fuller
If this sounds like a strange name for a story to you, well perhaps it is, but you really must hear it out before you decide.
Back in 1890, John O’Brien, a miner in the Hawthorne district, had a thrilling experience. In front of his camp on a hillside, is a large rock, which is used as a chair by Mr. O’Brien when he has time to enjoy a rest.
One Sunday, after dinner, John lit his pipe and took a seat on the soft side of the big rock. He was soon in a fully relaxed and meditative state, just enjoying a view of the nearby mountain; suddenly, however, his decompressed senses returned with a rush and seemed to center in that portion of his anatomy nearest the rock. John arose in haste, and uttered a roar which causes the very mountains to tremble and at the same time he clapped his hand on his rear pocket. He glanced down at the rock and saw a huge rattlesnake leaving it and gliding down the hill. John knew he had been sitting on the snake and that he had been bitten. He was filled with excitement and anguish. He rushed into camp and poured the contents of a demijohn down his throat, thinking the poison in the whiskey would counteract the poison in the snake. He then remembered that one time he had been told that if taken in time a person could draw the venom out by sucking the bite “but” as O’Brien says, “I’d have to have a neck like one of them giraffes to do that. The bite began to smart, and I knew I’d die if something didn’t happen, so I grabbed up a sharp carving knife, took down my pants, and seizing as big a lump of flesh in the vicinity of the bite as possible, I sliced it off. I got deeper than the snake, and even though I have been on my feet ever since, I am still alive.” Dr. Reed, who later examined him, asserts that it is an astonishing case and if it were not for O’Brien’s astuteness, he might have been assigned to an untimely grave.
All this was cause for John’s friends to jokingly hang a nick name on him that he didn’t particularly care for but he was saddled with none the less, “half a butt of half a butt.” But then on an occasion when one was anxious to just get the story told they just called him “old half a butt.”