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By DAVID McCUMBER, The Montana Standard

GLEN, Mont. (AP) — When Bill Childrey woke up last Saturday morning, he saw that skies were overcast over his place on the Big Hole near Notch Bottom — perfect for summer dry-fly fishing.

He was right — the fishing was great. He just didn’t know yet about the rest of his day: The suspected car theft and kidnapping.

The helicopter life flight.

And the snake.

As Paul Harvey would say, here’s the rest of the story.

Childrey, 75, and his wife Elizabeth have lived 6 months out of the year at their place on the Big Hole for 21 years. So he knows when a fishing day looks promising.

On July 25, Childrey didn’t bother donning his usual fishing pants. He didn’t bother with his cellphone. He just pulled on a pair of jeans and wading boots and hit the stream.

“I was pretty excited,” he told The Montana Standard. “It just looked real good.”

Sure enough, he found browns and rainbows were enthusiastically chowing down on hoppers, and he caught several very nice fish.

Fishing his home water, he knew all the good spots. So he headed to the next one, saw a fish rising, and stepped toward the river to make his cast.

Whack. He was bitten on the leg by a rattlesnake.

“I know better,” he said. “I’m always careful about watching where I walk. But I was just excited about the fishing.”

He must have startled the snake, “a four- or five-footer,” he said, because it didn’t even let out a rattle. It just attacked.

“I didn’t step on it, but I stepped really near it,” Childrey said. “I knew right away what happened.”

“I was pretty panicked,” he said. “Later I found out I probably had three hours to get to the hospital, but I didn’t know that then.”

He started walking back toward his house. He had seen the neighboring ranch’s caretaker drive by, so he started calling out.

“Calling, heck, I was yelling,” he said. “Then I saw the caretaker’s truck. I looked inside it, and the keys were in it.”

So Childrey jumped in the truck and headed for another nearby ranch.

What he didn’t know was that the caretaker had seen him take the truck, but didn’t recognize him and assumed his truck had just been stolen. So he called the sheriff.

Our snakebitten protagonist, by now a car-theft suspect, pulled up in the yard of the Garrison place. “Floydena and Billy Garrison are good friends,” Childrey said. “Floydena was mowing her lawn. So I yelled at her.”

“I just put him in the truck and took him to town,” Floydena said. “I didn’t even grab my cellphone.”

When they arrived at Barrett Community Hospital in Dillon, the emergency room was pretty full and doctors there had only one vial of antivenin. So doctors decided to life-flight Childrey to St. James Healthcare in Butte.

“Everybody was so great at both hospitals,” Childrey said. “The nurses were awesome, the doctors were great.”

Meanwhile, back at the ranch (oh, the joy at being able to use that line!) Childrey was overdue at home. He and Elizabeth had an online social appointment with friends.

“That darn guy has gotten excited about fishing and has forgotten all about this,” Elizabeth Childrey said to herself. “I’d better go get him.”

About then, she got a call from Floydena Garrison, who by then had retrieved her phone.

“She told me, ‘Don’t panic but Bill was bitten by a rattlesnake.’” Elizabeth, of course, panicked.

Floydena came over and drove Elizabeth to Butte to see Bill.

“The kindness of our neighbors is incredible,” Elizabeth Childrey said. “Here she just took Bill to Dillon and she comes right back and takes me to Butte.”

Meanwhile, back at the other ranch, the caretaker’s pickup truck had been located at the Garrison place.

Trouble was, Floydena and her truck were missing. People began to worry that whoever stole the first truck decided Floydena’s new truck was better and abducted it, along with her.

When she came back home, she found a crowd of worried family members in her yard. “Here they found that missing truck in our driveway, and I was gone,” she said. “I told them what happened. I didn’t do anything special. I was just available to help out.”

So finally, everything got straightened out, and people realized that Bill Childrey, aka the mystery man from the river, was not actually a car thief, but a snakebite victim.

And at the hospital, Childrey got good news.

Wearing his jeans turned out to be a great idea. One of the snake’s fangs had struck the seam on his jeans, and so did not penetrate to the skin. So he was officially a one-fang snakebite victim.

Doctors kept him overnight at St. James Healthcare, while he was receiving antivenin, so they could keep an eye on him. On Sunday, they let him go home.

“We were so lucky,” Elizabeth says. “The doctors say there’s no reason he shouldn’t make a full recovery.

“He’s keeping his leg elevated.”

Childrey is also taking a great deal of ribbing from friends from across the country.

“They wanted to know why I didn’t stay and fish longer,” he said.

“If I’d known I had three hours to get to the doctor. I might have,” he said. “The fishing was really good.”

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Better Late Than Never for Civic Center Eats

No, COVID-19 hasn't completely ruined the summer of 2020; the sun still shines on Colorado every day and the great outdoors still beckon, but the pandemic has certainly squashed some of our favorite summer activities: concerts, beer fests, sporting events and food festivals, including our own Tacolandia, which would have taken place later this month at Civic Center Park.

But outdoor dining at Civic Center Park is not off the table — even if it has been postponed a few months. Civic Center Eats returns on Wednesday, August 12, keeping alive the decade-long run of the food truck gathering that helped launch a new era of mobile kitchens in Denver.

In years past, Civic Center Eats welcomed food trucks to the park beginning in May, so we're already three months behind on our street food noshing, but you'll be able to make up for some of that lost time because there's something new this year: dinner. The food truck gathering will take place every Wednesday and Thursday fro 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. — and again from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m — through October 15.

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Of course, the whole event will look a little different this year. Instead of twenty or so trucks attracting hundreds of hungry customers to pack the plaza, there will be five trucks at a time, and each of the four weekly sessions will rotate vendors, adding variety for returning customers.

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Support Our Journalism EXPAND Cilantro & Perejil is one of the food trucks returning to Civic Center EATS. Mark Antonation

“We know that Civic Center Eats is such a quintessential experience during the summer here, so we’ve been focused on bringing it back to life, even if on a much smaller level” says Eric Lazzari, executive director of the Civic Center Conservancy, which organizes the food truck rally. “We want to create that culinary experience our Eats fans crave, support our food truck community and breathe some life back into Civic Center – in a safe environment. And we’re excited to offer dinner this year, to give more people a chance to come experience Eats with their friends and families.”

To maintain a safe and healthy environment this year, there will be a roped-off area on the southwest side of the promenade where customers will order and pick up food (rather than standing in line at each food truck). Once you have your pizza, tacos, sandwiches, salads, dumplings, ice cream and other eats, you can enjoy your meal in a designated picnic circle on the lawn or spread out anywhere else in the park — as long as you maintain a safe distance from other guests. Masks will be required while in the ordering and pick-up area, and there will be a one-way traffic flow for entering and leaving.

Some of Denver's longest-running food trucks will be participating, including Steuben's, Orange Crunch, Pasty Republic and Crock Spot Gourmet, along with other returning favorites such as Cilantro & Perejil, Cirque Kitchen, Adobo, Denver Vegan Van, Ba-nom-a-nom, J Street, Miss B's Vietnamese and Radical Sasquatch. Also be on the lookout for hot newcomers Yuan Wonton, Cupbob (Korean street food) and Taco Choi. See the Civic Center Eats website for a complete list of 2020 vendors, with links to their menus — so you can order in advance.

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