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Posted by theMAC on March 02, 2003 at 11:36:34:
The Sweetwater Crotalid Educational Symposium and Family Cookout:
In an effort to take on a friendlier atmosphere the Jaycee’s of Sweetwater, TX have chosen a new moniker for their annual festivities. Following the lead of such groups as The National Socialist German Worker’s Party they hope to bring like minded people together and educate them about the stigma carried by the rattlesnakes that call the South Western United States home.
The event dates back to 1958 and Sweetwater historian, Randy Humor, explained the origin. “It came about as the result of a very unsuccessful Sunday School Christmas play about Moses and the plagues of Egypt. The 3 young boys in charge of props couldn’t find any frogs for the plague so they turned loose 25 large diamond back rattlesnakes in the middle of the congregation. The Lord’s name was used in vain several times that day and A LOT of parishioners had to be saved...in more ways than one. Though no one was bit in the incident, one little girl in the play did sustain injuries from a poorly swung rake. That sort of set the tone for what we have today”.
In an interviewed, Mrs. Ima Moorahn, the president of “We Love Rattlers (BBQ & fried)” made a strong case for the change of name. “We feel the event has been unfairly criticized by a few opinionated people who want the world to think we are monsters for rounding up these animals. If we didn’t drive miles out into the empty range land and run these creatures out of their holes, they would be in our back yards hiding under our daisies waiting to kill us all. Besides, unlike the so-called-experts who criticize our event, our experts are clean cut, well dressed, local boys. It looks like a George Strait concert with snakes. That makes me feel like America can bring their kids here to learn everything they need to know about rattlesnakes. Yup, that’s quality education.”
Critics of the rattlesnake roundups around the country claim that the methods used to gather the reptiles are harmful to them, the event itself is stressful on them, and that so many animals are being removed that it will adversely affect the environment.
One of the handlers in Sweetwater, who wished to remain anonymous, had this to say
“I think they’re just a bunch of tree hugging college kids. They don’t know what they’re talking about. Gasoline evaporates…it doesn’t stay in the hole. And heck most of our trucks are diesel now anyway so it’s not like we carry as much gas as we used to. And look around. Do you see any sick snakes here? Most of them just lie there real quiet like. And as for populations...shoot, there are more every year. I’ve been doing this for a couple decades and I haven’t seen any plague of rats either. And I’ve never been bitten...That kinda proves it, huh?”
This year Texas A&M University and Texas Parks and Wildlife have added their credentials to this event in an effort to move it away from its “round-up” roots. Like academic buzzards to a data road kill, they have swooped in to gather info on these promising looking belts, boots and snacks, thereby making the best of a bad situation. To quote one tenured professional “Apparently the political aspects of rattlesnake collection was previously unconsidered. The current legislative and scientific philosophy is to simply make it illegal for people to have anything to do with animals we want to study. The fewer people there are looking for them the better we do at getting our grants renewed. But [Sweetwater] is a whole new ball game. Sure they are removing thousands of snakes from their natural environment each year before they get to breed and replace themselves, the venom can’t be used for anti-venom fabrication, the snakes are terribly mistreated in an effort to win prizes, and it teaches children to kill every snake they see, but there’s nothing we can do about this, it’s just like the number of snakes killed by automobiles each year. I just close my eyes and imagine all these people are very poor drivers.”
The festival runs March 7th – 9th and any fan of mid 19th century buffalo hunting will want to come to Sweetwater to watch thousands of snakes be pulled from their natural habitat and sent off to their deaths.