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MailTribune.com
  • Snake-bite drama ends up made for TV

  • While wandering near his family's rafting camp in the lower Rogue River Canyon, Spencer Funk spied a small snake darting across the trail and reacted like most 11-year-old boys would.
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  • While wandering near his family's rafting camp in the lower Rogue River Canyon, Spencer Funk spied a small snake darting across the trail and reacted like most 11-year-old boys would.
    "I decided it would be a spectacular idea to pick it up and scare my sister with it," he says.
    And the snake reacted the way most reptiles in distress would. But this little wiggler happened to be a rattlesnake, and its bite pumped enough venom into the middle finger on Spencer's right hand to turn that night six years ago into a harrowing attempt not only to save the Medford boy's finger, but his life.
    A family member sprinted along the Rogue River Trail in darkness to get help, then Spencer was carried in a gurney up an old, one-and-a-half-mile-long logging road.
    "It was quite an ordeal," recalls Roger Funk, Spencer's father. "There was lots of drama that went on that night."
    Enough drama for cable television, as it turns out.
    The Funk family's nightmare, on July 4, 2006, along the Rogue's remote Wild and Scenic Section, will be re-created for a half-hour docudrama on the Travel Channel as part of a short series called "Got Home Alive."
    The show uses actors interspersed with film footage and interviews of the real people involved in harrowing adventures about what they were feeling and what led to their decision-making.
    "It's a situation made for TV," Roger Funk says.
    The show chronicles how 14 members of the Funk family, some from the East Coast, dealt with their first night in the canyon while camping in the Whiskey Creek area.
    After Spencer returned to camp with the snake bite, family members watched his finger turn progressively worse before they sent an adult cousin, Ken Walsh, to run for help along the dangerous trail at night carrying just a flashlight.
    The show chronicles the pitfalls and problems along that route before family members and rescue crews loaded a morphine-dosed Spencer into an ambulance for a middle-of-the-night sprint to Three Rivers Community Hospital in Grants Pass.
    There, he received 14 units of antivenom. After two days in the hospital and two weeks of rehabilitation, Spencer was on the road to recovery.
    The 17-year-old North Medford High School junior's middle digit now operates as every teenager's does — except it does get a bit colder than his other fingers during winter.
    The ordeal was destined to become just another piece of family-reunion fodder, albeit more dramatic than most, until Walsh returned to his home in Maine and told the story to a local newspaper.
    That story eventually snaked its way to Cheri Productions in Los Angeles. The company produces dramatic documentaries about stories like this one, and the Funks were soon on their way to cableland.
    The production took off last summer when the company's film crew was in New York at the same time that the Funk family — including those on that fateful rafting trip — were holding a family reunion there. The crew spent six hours interviewing family members about that night, then everyone went their separate ways.
    The production team later sent the Funks a camera to shoot video of the Rogue, the trail, the logging road and other scenes, while actors working from a script did reenactments in a Southern California studio, Roger Funk says.
    The family expects to throw show-watching parties both in the Rogue Valley and Maine, but the party may be hard to plan.
    "Got Home Alive" is scheduled to run on Thursday nights at 9 p.m. on Charter channel 53, but an exact date on Spencer Funk's segment has been tough to pin down. A representative for the show's production company said the show may run on Thursday, Nov. 24 — Thanksgiving Day — but could not commit, so the Funk family will find themselves channel surfing until it runs.
    When it does run, all they get is their 30 minutes of fame.
    "No money," Roger Funk says.
    Spencer, who is an actor, says he's excited to see the show.
    "I have no idea what it'll be like," he says. "I've never seen myself on TV before."
    As for picking up snakes on a trail?
    "Nope," Spencer says. "Just in biology class."
    Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or mfreeman@mailtribune.com.
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