Friday, April 17, 2009
Yesterday, our last full day here in Oklahoma, we went to the town of Apache to be guests at the opening day of the annual Rattlesnake Rodeo--a carnival with rides and junk food like any other carnival, but the central attraction is the rattlesnakes.
First we go into a building with a ten by twenty foot by four foot high wooden enclosure. Inside the enclosure are two retired men in boots and coveralls carrying hooks. Also in the enclosure are 50 or so rattlesnakes piled and slithering against the walls and occasionally striking at the men when poked. The more talkative of the men tells us about the snakes, their venom, their rattles with a show-and-tell format that involves holding the angry animals behind their heads and showing them around to the spectators.
At the end of the presentation, the silent handler puts a half-dozen snakes in a box and sends them to the building next door--the snake butcher shop. So we all troop next door and watch as the handlers at that show select a snake, show its markings, then cut off its head with an ax.
The guy with the microphone headset then shows us how the head keeps biting while a woman in an apron hangs the rest of the snake above a sink. While he explains she guts and skins the snake and gets the $15 per pound meat ready to sell.
If I can hook up to one of the cameras in a few days, and if we get internet access, I'll try to post some pictures. In the meantime, you can watch a video on the blog site of one of the other soldiers in my unit.