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TX Press: Long history with rattlers

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Posted by: W von Papinešu at Sun Mar 20 16:21:26 2011  [ Report Abuse ] [ Email Message ] [ Show All Posts by W von Papinešu ]  

GLOBE-NEWS (Amarillo, Texas) 18 March 11 Tulia cowboy has long history with rattlers (Jon Mark Beilue)
The first time Jay Weddel heard the rattlers of a diamondback snake up close was in 1933 with his brothers and sisters in Hall County, about 20 miles southwest of Memphis. They were out in a plum thicket, hoes in one hand, plums in another.
"We were the poorest of the poor in the Depression in 1933," he said. "We lived there through the '20s and '30s, and things didn't improve until 1937 when Dad made a decent crop."
Mr. Weddel, what about that rattlesnake?
"Well, that is one place a rattlesnake likes to hang out - a plum thicket," he said. "It's hard to get a good swing at one through all the plum bushes. Once he goes into a coil and the fight starts, I've never seen one run. They will fight to the death."
This is the time of year that rattlesnakes begin to come out and slither about. This is the season of the rattlesnake roundups. The world's largest and oldest in Sweetwater had its roundup last weekend. Since 1958, more than 123 tons of those creatures have been taken in.
Weddel, 87, is a self-described expert and historian on the rattlesnake. He's been out among them for decades as a cowboy, trapper and country horse doctor.
"I got all the history anyone could ever need on them," said Weddel, who lives in Tulia, "but it's out there in a storage building, in a footlocker. And at my age I ain't felt up to digging them out."
No, that's not necessary. Weddel is an honest and often self-critical man. He said he has a fourth-grade education, but was taught by his mother to read. And read he has, mostly veterinarian books and "medicine books for people." He said he's worked with some of the best vets in the state over the decades.
"I've learned a lot of things the average American don't know," he said. "On the other hand, I'm handicapped by writing, mainly spelling. I could write a book as thick as the Sears and Roebuck catalog if I could write."
Same here. But Mr. Weddel, about rattlesnake bite prevention and treatment?
"I may be the most handicapped person you've ever talked to," he said. "Social isolation is my main problem. I'm a nervous kind of feller. I've never been married, not even a girlfriend. That's terrible. It's been a lonesome life."
I'm sorry to hear that, Mr. Weddel, because you sound like a very nice man. Now, about those rattlesnakes?
"If I can save one person from getting a rattlesnake bite, it's worth my time and effort," he said.
Weddel came up with a way years ago to save a horse bitten in the nose while grazing. It involves a garden hose, IV needle, a jar of Vaseline, surgical gloves and a lot of moxie. Bottom line: Weddel's emergency perforation and draining in the animal's nose has removed some of the poison and allowed a horse to breathe long enough to get it to a vet.
"Now I'm not the first person to put a hose up a horse's nose," he said, "but I'm the first one to build one like I built and do it. To save that little feller's life immediately, it almost brings tears to your eyes. I've never lost a horse doing that."
No one is going to stick a hose up a human's nose, so as for people, Weddel said, take nothing for granted to lessen the chance of a snake surprise. Camping, hiking, out in the pasture, poking under rocks or old junk, yes, those are well-known.
But living in small towns, especially where grassland comes to the edges, and even inside Amarillo, can lure snakes. Especially on a hot day, Weddel said, rattlesnakes think like people. They like shade and water. So be alert when among the tomato vines in the garden or watering the rose bushes.
"Rattlesnakes got scent glands in their nostrils and they can smell for a considerable distance," he said. "They can smell water on real hot days, and they like a cool place to get, just like we do. So be careful when poking around vegetation."
A sharpened hoe and a dose of caution, said our snake expert, first-aid inventor, cowboy, trapper and Panhandle character, will go a long way while in places where a rattler could fang out.
Tulia cowboy has long history with rattlers


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