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Wranglers Round Up the Rattlers in Texas

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Wranglers Round Up the Rattlers in Texas

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Wranglers Round Up the Rattlers in Texas

Wranglers Round Up the Rattlers in Texas

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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An abundant population of rattlesnakes is thinned each year at a festival in Sweetwater, Texas. Rodney Kinsey takes a break from wrangling rattlers to describe the event, now in its 48th year, for Susan Stamberg.


But first, it's Rattlesnake Roundup time in Sweetwater. For 48 years, snakes hunters have come to this Texas town to corral the most and the biggest Diamondback rattlers they can find in just four days.

Rodney Kinsey has been hunting Sweetwater snakes for more than two decades.

Hi, Mr. Kinsey.

Mr. RODNEY KINSEY (Snake Hunter): How you doing?

STAMBERG: I'm just fine. But you're in the middle of a roundup this second, aren't you?

Mr. KINSEY: Yes ma'am.

STAMBERG: Is that what all the yelling is about in the background?

Mr. KINSEY: Yes ma'am.

STAMBERG: Oh, who's there yelling?

Mr. KINSEY: Some people from New York. We had some snakes that was laying out from the den and they was kind of getting excited about it.

STAMBERG: How do you go about capturing these things?

Mr. KINSEY: Most the snakes are going to be laying right outside the den, so we'll walk up on them and let them get some pictures. And we'll take a set of tongs and pick them up and put into a trashcan or a box. And take them to town and they weigh them at the back of the coliseum, we put them into a pit with a bunch of other snakes. And they pay us for bringing them in or pay whoever's bringing them in. And then we'll collect them all weekend. And then we have a vendor that takes them Sunday night, takes everything that we catch. If it's 10,000 pounds or 20,000 pounds...

STAMBERG: Wait, 10 to 20,000 pounds of rattlesnakes?

Mr. KINSEY: Yes ma'am. We've got 10,000 right now.

STAMBERG: Where, where at this moment, just so I can lift my legs?

Mr. KINSEY: We have some fiberglass pits and they're in these pits and we've got some guys in there because it's so hot. And they've got on chaps and boots and they're stirring them around to keep them cool and alive and keep them active. And then we actually box them up from that once we start getting too many snakes in a pit.

STAMBERG: You're not hurting those poor snakes while you do this?

Mr. KINSEY: No, ma'am, we're sure not.

STAMBERG: Are they hurting you?

Mr. KINSEY: Not yet.

STAMBERG: What's the reason for all of this? Good, slimy fun? I know snakes are not slimy, I learned that years ago, but good fun or are there too many snakes?

Mr. KINSEY: Out here, there's just an abundance of snakes. And the Chamber of Commerce in town, they had a snake at their front porch the other day. So, hang on just a minute.

STAMBERG: Oh yeah.

Mr. KINSEY: Put them snakes in that box because they're gonna start trying to crawl off. Just put them in that box and then when we get through, we'll let them look at them again, but it's gonna get too hot. Just put them all up for a minute. Okay.


Mr. KINSEY: There's an abundance of snakes. I mean, in town there's snakes. There's just an abundant amount of snakes. So we're not trying to deplete the population. We're just trying to help control it. And, you know, farmers and ranchers, you know, like myself, we lose a lot of calves every year to a snake bite, or a dog, you know, gets bit or something. And like I say, we're just trying to help control it.

It's a big activity. We bring in about 50,000 people into a town of about 10,000 people...


Mr. KINSEY:'s just a big tourist...

STAMBERG: Yeah. You don't eat any snakes, do you?

Mr. KINSEY: Yes, we do cook them up. I've tasted them. I mean, taste a little like chicken. There's not a lot of meat on it, but we'll fry it up probably somewhere around 4,000 pounds this weekend. And nearly everybody coming through the front door at least wants to taste it.

STAMBERG: And there's a Miss Snake Charmer Pageant there, too, I understand.

Mr. KINSEY: Yes, they had it last night. A girl from Colorado City won it. She'll be in the snake pit today. We put chaps and stuff on her so she won't get bit. But that's her job all weekend. It's kind of get in the pit and do some work and do some PR work for us.

STAMBERG: Thank you very much. And watch your ankles.

Rattlesnake Roundup veteran Rodney Kinsey, in Sweetwater, Texas. Thank you, sir.

Mr. KINSEY: Bye.

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