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Posted by W von Papinešu on March 15, 2003 at 10:48:51:
CALLER-TIMES (Corpus-Christi, Texas) 13 March 03 Snakes fascinate round-up visitors (Thaddeus DeJesus)
Alanna Adams, 16, slunk into a pit and adjusted her rhinestone tiara, ready to perform her royal duties at the World's Largest Rattlesnake Round-up.
The 2003 Miss Snake Charmer wore hip waders to protect her legs from the several dozen serpents coiled in the ring and rattling at the slightest hint of movement.
"I like to call this bit the beauty and the beast," handler Rick Wilkinson said as Adams came into the pit.
Wilkinson used a long-handled hook to plop a rattlesnake on top of a white-laminate table at the center of the ring. He instructed a nervous Adams to pick up the live snake by the head and tail to display it before the crowd.
Before long, Adams would drop the snake onto the floor and pick up a bull snake to take to the crowds to pet. Adams, a Sweetwater High School junior who dreams of going to New York University to study music, said she was aware of the hazards of being Miss Snake Charmer.
Saturday afternoon was the first time she handled a live rattlesnake. Skinning a rattlesnake, she said, was easier on the nerves.
"They had their heads cut off, so they weren't going to exactly bite me," she said.
After Adams left the ring, Wilkinson continued his safety demonstration on how to handle an encounter with snakes. Although the human instinct is to scream and run, it's the wrong move, he said.
Wilkinson, who has been fascinated with snakes since grade school, used humor to convey his messages and relayed an urban legend.
Two friends were out in a pasture near town when one of the men was bit in the rear by a rattler, Wilkinson said. The injured man told his friend to rush into town and get help from the doctor.
The good doctor told the man's friend to score the bite marks and suck out the venom. He rushed back out to the field to find his hurt friend, pants around ankles, and told him the grim news.
"The doctor said you're gonna die," Wilkinson said, laughing.
A prankster, Wilkinson pretended to trip and lunged at the audience with a rattlesnake, causing one entire bleacher section of visitors to sway back.
Jason Vercontaire, 25, of Dallas had the unfortunate luck of being up front. His ruddy face blanched, but he laughed heartily upon realizing the joke.
"I'm not afraid of snakes," he said. "If I had to, I could stand in that ring."
His sister, Nicole, sneered at his bravado. "If you saw a venomous snake, I know how you'd act."
Through the years, the Sweetwater rattlesnake round-up has emphasized the show's educational aspect. The show is participating in ongoing research with the Texas Parks and Wildlife and Texas A&M University to determine the impact of commercial round-ups.
Biologists take note of the amount of snakes caught by weight, their lengths and sexes. By Saturday afternoon, hunters had netted more than 2,800 pounds of snakes.