“Boy, you ain’t a Southern Gentleman ’til you’ve handled a snake.” - The Senator
Okay, so it’s not an exact quote. But that’s not important.
What is important is that this weekend, we saw a Childhood Dream fulfilled. Ronald McDonald House and Make-A-Wish Foundation combined could not have pulled it off with more aplomb, even if their mission statement were broadened to include making real the wishes of men in their late 40’s, raddled by Existential Despair and the ravages of Ketel One instead of by fulminant leukemia. But inside every man there lurks a little boy, a little boy who might still have his dreams of snakes...and monkeys...and Pimpish Headgear. Why should those dreams go a-wanting?
Given that Denny has already done such a superb job of recapping this past weekend’s Exercise in Collective Insanity, it’s almost not worth me rehashing the same old events. Like trying to gild the lily, as it were.
But you wanted snakes, and I’ve got ’em. Enough to send this guy off the deep end, quivering in fear for the next several months.
A little background, first, however.
This little event began as a demented seed in Velociman’s brain. He had mentioned the possibility of going down to Whigham, Georgia in January for the local Rattlesnake Roundup...the latest in a long series of Episodic Attacks of rattlesnake fever on his part. One would have thought the boy has snakes living inside his head, but ol’ Uncle Elisson could see what was afoot. It was that old Childhood Dream, floating to the surface like a half-decomposed drowning victim. And while Eric and I were game, the stars were not in alignment for a late January Reptile Run, alas. But that is only because another, more auspicious occasion was looming just over the horizon.
For it was about this time that Shoe began casting about for an entertaining venue for her impressionable young sons, both of whom were going to be on Spring Break beginning March 10. The fearsome Velocibrain sprang into action: Ain’t that when Claxton, Georgia has its annual Rattlesnake Roundup? Where I’ve been trying to assemble the Jawja Blodgers for the last three years?
Perfect. For Claxton has much to recommend it. It is located a mere hour from Savannah, meaning that good accommodations, food, and drink - the latter in copious amounts - may be had there. And Claxton has fruitcake! Being, of course, that it is home to the famous Claxton Fruit Cake, purportedly an exemplar of the genre.
Claxton, home of World Famous
Well, as in all these Bloggy Situations, one thing led to another...and this Saturday just past found an intrepid group of
I had a pretty good idea of what to expect, for SWMBO had this thing figured out from the get-go. “You guys are wasting your time. It’s just gonna be like that stupid Apple Festival in Ellijay. A bunch of booths selling arts and crafts, turkey legs, corn on the cob, and funnel cakes.”
Indeed. For it ain’t a Country Fair without Funnel Cakes. And other Random Fried Comestibles.
And Claxton had all that crap. But it had the Venomous Reptiles, too...and somewhat north of 10,000 Reubens wanting to get a glimpse of ’em.
There was a covered arena, ringed by bleachers, with a fenced-off area: the ominous-sounding Snake Pit. In it, a fellow yclept Steve Scruggs, who bills himself as the Snake Master, was just finishing up a demonstration by handing out autographed pictures to the kiddies. The crowd was five deep at the front of the enclosure and the bleachers were packed. It was like a ballgame. Snake fever - Catch it!
Inside the Snake Pit there were several pens in which the snakes writhed, hissed, and shook their rattles menacingly.
Velociman and I walked around to the back of the Pit. There had to be a way in. We hadn’t schlepped all this way to see the Fearsome Beasties from twenty feet away, oh no.
That’s when we saw the Snake Master hizzownself in the midst of a Media Interview, taking off his Snake-Proof Boots in preparation for a break. When the interview was done, we got his attention.
This is where the Digital SLR comes in handy. With a honkin’ big lens, a high-end amateur DSLR looks enough like a professional model that most people won’t notice the difference. It was all too easy for V-Man and I to claim bogus Media Credentials and earn a coveted invite into the Pit.
[My credentials weren’t totally bogus. I really am planning to mention the snakes on Radio Sandy Springs when I do my next show this coming Friday morning.]
And thus it was the Velociman and I found ourselves in the Belly of the Beast, so to speak. It was very like that moment in Star Trek IV when the spectators at the aquarium suddenly notice Spock swimming in the tank amongst the whales. Except we were in the tank with two hundred assorted venomous snakes. Chicka-chicka chick!
Up close ’n’ personal.
There were Beauty Queens galore, mostly of the Georgia home-grown variety, posing for Photo Ops with a monster (dead and stuffed) Eastern Diamondback. Later, when Steve Scruggs began the next round of demonstrations, these same Beauty Queens had a chance to hold real live rattlers, and I can tell you that they were not quite as cavalier about it.
I shot my pictures, grabbed some movie footage, and then it was time to go while Denny could get a lift back to the car.
Outside the Pit, the crowds milled around. People admired each other’s Smokeless Tobacco purchases. Some spoke in an incomprehensible Deep Souf Country Patois. Bear in mind, I have lived in the South many years and have traveled extensively throughout the world. There are few varieties of English I cannot understand...but in Claxton I heard some new ones.
Lovely young ladies. Honkin’ big snakes. Funnel cakes. And a little boy’s dream, come true at last. Only in America, chirren.
[Click on any photo to embiggen. Plenty more pics below the fold!]
Technorati tags: Rattlesnake, Rattlesnake Roundup, Snakes, Claxton
Runners in downtown Savannah.
Nothing like a road race at Rush Hour to help keep things moving along smoothly, eh?
The Blown-Eyed Blodgers get ready to face the snakes.
The Grouchy Old Cripple.
It ain’t a Country Fair without NASCAR.
A trio of lovely ladies.
Miss Rattlesnake Roundup 2007.
Hey, kid...after the show, we’re gonna feed you to those snakes.
“Lemme out! I wuz framed!”
A few of the 200+ rattlers at the Roundup.
A honkin’, humpin’ heap o’ Herpetical Honeys.
Wanna see my other snake, Missy?
Yours Truly and Velociman show off our Snakey Trophies.
The Jawja Blodgers went to Claxton and all I got was this lousy T-Shirt!
That 1 Guy.
Recondo32, Velociman, and Zonker relax post-Roundup.
In Savannah, even the buildings get lit for Saint Patrick’s Day.
Velociman: Living the Dream in Claxton.
The Straight White Guy.
A few of the Intrepid Blown-Eyes...and the Mistress of Sarcasm.