Snake Handler Holds Rattlers and Records

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Texas snakeman Jackie Bibby is a contender for the best interview ever on the 'BPP.' Bibby holds a number of rattlesnake records, from sharing a bathtub with 87 to snuggling in a sleeping bag with 112.

ALISON STEWART, host:

Here's a sampling of world records held by the Texas snake man, Jackie Bibby. Most rattlesnakes suspended by tails from his mouth? Eleven. Sitting in a bathtub with the most rattlesnakes? Eighty-seven. Sharing a sleeping bag with the most rattlesnakes? One hundred and 12. Sharing a sleeping bag - head first - with the most rattlesnakes, that's a different record. It's 30.

He holds - he also holds the world record in the sport of rattlesnake sacking. It's a two-man sport that is pretty much what it sounds like. He and his partner got 10 rattlesnakes into a sack in just over 17 seconds. He has dominated the event for almost four decades. Now, Rachel Martin and I talked with him the day before this year's National Rattlesnake Sacking Championships, and he said he wasn't sure if he'd be sacking this time around, nothing left to prove. We asked him how the sport works.

(Soundbite of reverse playback)

(Soundbite of NPR's The Bryant Park Project, April 4, 2008)

RACHEL MARTIN: Describe that partnership between the guy who's pinning down the snakes and the guy who's holding the sack.

Mr. JACKIE BIBBY (Rattlesnake Sacking Champion): Well, the one who's picking the snakes up is called the pinner, and the one who's holding the sack is called the sacker.

MARTIN: There you go. That's logical.

Mr. BIBBY: Yes. And it's very important that you have an individual sacking for you that you trust and that knows what he's doing, because that individual has to block snakes. He has to talk to you about where the snakes are. He has to help you go through the process of getting through the snakes. So, this is a timed event, so, you know, you've got to be moving rapidly. And any time you move rapidly in conjunction with rattlesnakes, you're going to get a lot of bites. And rattlesnake bites are nothing nice.

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: Have you - I'll ask you about that in a minute, but let's talk about your record, less than two seconds a snake. Seems like you'd have to be able to predict what snakes are going to do and how you do this. You have some kind of sixth-snake sensibility?

Mr. BIBBY: Well, I'd like to think so.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BIBBY: I've been doing this for a long time. And part of it is luck of the draw, just like any other timed event, if it were calf roping, or anything else, where you - it's a timed event. The snakes that you draw, because you have no idea of what 10 snakes will be in your bag, because you're handed a bag of snakes out of a pile that's been sacked up somewhere else. And then you have two minutes, with four judges, to arrange the snakes in a way that you want them to be in, before you begin.

At the end of two minutes, they shoot off a gun, and you have to go. If you're ready, you raise your hand, and when you drop your hand, they shoot off the gun. Because you have to immobilize the snake's head with a pinner prior to picking him up. If you don't do that properly, you get a five-second penalty. If you are bitten by one of the snakes, you also get a five-second penalty.

MARTIN: Wait, if you get bit you get a penalty? Isn't being bitten punishment enough?

Mr. BIBBY: No, ma'am.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Apparently not when you're sacking rattlesnakes.

MARTIN: How often have you been bit, Mr. Bibby?

Mr. BIBBY: Well, I've been doing this for 40 years, and I've been bit eight times seriously enough to require hospitalization.

STEWART: Oh.

MARTIN: And do you stop when you've been bit? Do you just say, I'm out, or do you keep going?

Mr. BIBBY: One of the worst bites I ever received, I received on Saturday, and I wouldn't go to the hospital until after I completed the contest on Sunday, because I was winning.

MARTIN: And then, finally, when are you going to make up your mind about competing? Is something - does someone egg you on and saying, come on, Jackie Bibby, I know you can't do it this year, and then you're going to say, fine, I'll do it?

Mr. BIBBY: Probably, yes.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BIBBY: It's an ego-driven sport, and I've been a thrill-seeker throughout my life. So, when the adrenaline gets to pumping, you know, I'm 57 years old, I'm bald-headed and I'm a little bit overweight, but you know, when I get in that pen and that gun goes off, I forget all that and I go to work.

STEWART: So, what happened? Did Jackie Bibby succumb to the charms of the rattlesnake pen? Well, we called him up after the competition.

(Soundbite of NPR's The Bryant Park Project, April 9, 2008)

MARTIN: Jackie, how did it go down? You showed up at the events, and you were on the...

Mr. BIBBY: Well, the adrenaline got to pumping...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. BIBBY: And those youngsters, you know, running around with their chests puffed out, I had to get in there and show them the old master was still able to come back.

STEWART: You do it.

MARTIN: Were they really egging you on? Or did you just say, I can't tolerate these egos?

Mr. BIBBY: Not necessarily. They really didn't want me to sack, because they knew I'd probably beat them.

STEWART: Yep, that's Jackie Bibby, Texas Snake Man, world-record holder, and once again, reigning national champion in rattlesnake sacking.

(Soundbite of music)

STEWART: That's it for this hour of the Bryant Park Project. We're always online at npr.org/bryantpark. I'm Alison Stewart. This is the Bryant Park Project from NPR News.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Rattlesnake-Sacker Competes, Wins Yet Again

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On Friday, rattlesnake-sacking world-record holder Jackie Bibby told us he didn't know if he'd be competing in this year's championships, which were held in Texas on Saturday and Sunday. He did, and he won.

ALISON STEWART, host:

Last week in the show, a Texas man by the name of Jackie Bibby gave as an education in the sport of rattlesnake-sacking. Ten snakes, two men, one sack. Bibby holds the world record. He flung ten snakes into a sack in just over 17 seconds.

RACHEL MARTIN, host:

Saturday and Sunday were the National Rattlesnake-Sacking Championships in Taylor, Texas, and Bibby told us he didn't know if he was going to compete this year. He didn't have anything left to prove.

Maybe he was a little too old, maybe a little wide at the belt, shall we say? But maybe the heat of competition would take over and he'd jump in. So, we called up Jackie Bibby to hear what happened once the snakes were down. Mr. Bibby?

Mr. JACKIE BIBBY (Rattlesnake-Sacker Champion): Good morning.

MARTIN: Good morning, sir. Thanks for coming back to be on the show. We appreciate it.

Mr. BIBBY: Always a pleasure to visit with you guys.

MARTIN: Jackie, how did it go down? You showed up at the event and you were on the...

Mr. BIBBY: The building got to pumping and those youngsters, you know, running around with their chests puffed out, I had to get in there and show them the old mater was still able to come back.

STEWART: You do it.

MARTIN: Were they really egging you on? Or did you just say, I can't tolerate these egos?

Mr. BIBBY: Not necessarily. They really didn't want me to sack because they knew I'd probably beat them.

MARTIN: So let's talk about what happened. You teamed up with your old partner, Ken Garret. What was your strategy? Or do you guys know each other so well that you just - you don't have to talk about it, you just say, let's do this, Ken?

Mr. BIBBY: You really don't have to strategize. We've been doing it - Ken and I have been sacking together for over 20 years, and you know, I've been involved in this competition for 40 years, so you know, we know pretty much what to do and how to do it. So, we just got in there and got with it.

MARTIN: Now just as a reminder, for folks who didn't get a chance to hear our other interview with you previously, the competition you have to - the whole gist of it is you have to take ten snakes. They're put on the ground.

You have to grab them really quick without getting bitten and put them into a bag that your partner is holding - holding the sack. Now your time was, in this competition, I understand, was 37 seconds?

Mr. BIBBY: Thirty-three was my average. What you do, you go three go rounds throughout the course of the weekend, and you draw for positions. So there's a certain amount of strategy involved in that, or luck of the draw, I might say.

And then you go three go-arounds, and they throw out your worst time and average your two best times, and that's what you have the competition based on. My aggregate time was just over 33 seconds.

MARTIN: And you were the one who was - Ken was holding the sack. You were actually grabbing the snakes, right?

Mr. BIBBY: That's right. Yeah, now Ken and I go both ways, but he had a pretty rough year. Like any other timed event, there's a great deal of luck involved because the snakes that you draw can have a big dramatic impact on how well you do, and he had some snakes that didn't cooperate very well. They ran on him real bad, and he had some rough ends.

MARTIN: Snakes with attitude.

Mr. BIBBY: So, he didn't place in the top three, which we were amazed about, because that's the first time in 17 years he hasn't been in the top three.

MARTIN: Now, your record though, in this competition, is 17 seconds, right?

Mr. BIBBY: That is correct. Yeah, 17.11.

MARTIN: So, you are getting a little slow, Jackie?

Mr. BIBBY: Well, there's only been two times - this competition's been in existence for 41 years. There've only been two times turned in under 20 seconds, so the time that I turned in 17, that was somewhat of a fluke.

MARTIN: And who placed second in the competition?

Mr. BIBBY: Shawn Jonas.

MARTIN: And is he someone - is he a long-time rival?

Mr. BIBBY: He's been sacking a long time. He's a friend of mine. We're all friends. There's so very few of us that participate in the sport we all know each other quite well.

MARTIN: Now, I want to talk about some things that we didn't get a chance to discuss last week. You are involved with snakes in a lot of other ways. It's not just the snake-sacking competition. You actually hold other snake related world records, correct?

Mr. BIBBY: Yes, ma'am. I've been in the Guinness Book of World Records since 1999. That was the first year I ever got in the Guinness Book, and you know, I do hold five world records. Only two or three are recognized by Guinness, but I'm in the Guinness Book virtually every year.

MARTIN: Now, I'm just going to name a few of these titles that you hold. "Most snakes suspended by tales in mouth."

Mr. BIBBY: Yes.

MARTIN: "Most snakes surrounding you while you sit in a bathtub," and you hold the title for something that has to do with you in a sleeping bag with a lot of rattlesnakes?

Mr. BIBBY: Yes.

MARTIN: Now, there are a lot of things to discuss in this conversation, but let's just drill down a little bit on the snakes in the mouth competition. Why in the world, Mr. Bibby, would you ever want to put a snake in your mouth?

Mr. BIBBY: Just to prove that I can, and also to get in the Guinness Book of World Records.

MARTIN: But you could eat like a lot of peanut butter sandwiches to get in the Guinness Book of World Records, or do a lot of other things. Are you not a little scared about putting a rattlesnake in your mouth?

Mr. BIBBY: No, I've been doing it for quite awhile. The first time I ever did it was on the "Jay Leno Show" several years ago, and I'm constantly talking with individuals about, well, what can you do? Can you do this? Can you do that? The guy - the producer of the show actually asked me if I could put snakes in my pants. I said, well, no, I don't think so.

STEWART: Excuse me?

Mr. BIBBY: But I said I did. On the "Maury Povich Show" one time, put a snake in my mouth. He said, you did? And I said yeah, we put the tail in my mouth and I held onto the snake like that. He said, well, how many can you put in your mouth? I said, well, I'm not sure. He said, well, do me a video and send it to me, and let me see what you can do.

So I got six in my mouth, sent him the video, and he said, yeah, we want you on the "Leno Show." So, I went out and did "Leno," and it was a lot of fun, had a great time, and then after that, everybody was really excited about - well, this snakes in the mouth, it's a very powerful visual, you know...

MARTIN: Yes, I might imagine that it is. You have a lot of snakes in you.

Mr. BIBBY: There's a certain amount of yuck factor involved in it when you got a bunch of snakes hanging out of your mouth by their tails, so it become quite popular then, and so I've been doing it now for several years. The last two years on Guinness World Records Day, which is every November.

Guinness World Records has a designed day when a lot of people set world records. I got the opportunity to do that stunt, and every time I go up one more snake, I always get a trip for a new record, or some kind of something out of it. So, I started doing it with six. Now last year in November, I did 11 up in New York City for Guinness World Records.

MARTIN: Well, Jackie Bibby, thank you very much for exploring the world of snakes in a way that I have not done before. I imagine not many people in our audience have either, and congratulations on your win over the weekend! That's great news. Jackie Bibby holds several world records and several - has held several rattlesnakes in his mouth at a time. Sir, thanks, and I hope to talk to you again.

Mr. BIBBY: Thank you very much. It's always a pleasure. If anyone wants to check out my website, it's texsnakeman.com.

MARTIN: OK, we'll link to that on our website. Take care.

Mr. BIBBY: Thank you, bye-bye.

MARTIN: Bye-bye.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Meet the World's Greatest Rattlesnake Sacker

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Rattlesnake

A rattlesnake tastes the air. Jack Bibby says rattlesnake is selling for $3.50 a pound, "live weight." David McNew/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption David McNew/Getty Images

Picture two men in a small enclosure, packing ten live snakes into a sack, fast. Thirty seconds is pretty good, but a minute is bad, says Jackie Bibby, who holds the world record and will attend this weekend's National Rattlesnake Sacking Championship in Taylor, Texas.

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