Rattlesnake Rodeo adds real bite to sleepy Alabama, writes Jay Reeves.
Seventy-five Eastern diamondback rattlesnakes are menacing, even when locked inside a wooden cage, but the cringe factor is just part of the attraction at the Opp Rattlesnake Rodeo.
For 50 years, hunters have been tromping through piney woods and grassy fields in south Alabama looking for these snakes, which live underground in holes. The ones they find are put on display at the two-day festival. Afterward, they are killed.
This year, the writhing, 3.6kg snake in handler Scotty Short's grip is part of the rodeo show. Dozens of people gather around as he holds up the rattler, using a metal hook to expose its long, curved fangs. Next year, the same reptile's scaly hide might be for sale as a wallet or belt at a souvenir booth. Its severed, dried head or rattles might be trinkets at another display table.
The rattlesnake rodeo has made this sleepy south Alabama town, population 6600, known all over the South - the event's 50th anniversary in March drew about 25,000 people. Similar snake roundups are held in more than two dozen communities from Texas to Pennsylvania.