SCENARIO: When 14-year-old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) is bitten in the arm by a rattlesnake, her partner and protector Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) cuts the wound open and sucks the venom out, then races across Choctaw country, working her horse until it collapses, in order to get her to a doctor. Though Rooster manages to save her life, her arm develops gangrene and needs to be amputated. Did Rooster do the right thing?
THE EXPERT SAYS: Though the “suck the venom out” technique was commonly used in the 1870s, when True Grit was set, it has ”long since been refuted by every doctor and EMT out there,” says Nester. A snakebite should be treated like any other wound: clean it out, wash it, and “get the injured person out of there.” It’s not clear if Mattie was envenomed, since they end up amputating her arm, but time is the most important thing—so Mattie’s horse didn’t die in vain.