(Donald's rattlesnake memories, written by Donald.)
Growing up on a farm in Central Florida and plowing fields for other farmers we saw a lot of wild critters.
There was a place called “Ross Allen's Reptile Institute” (http://www.lostparks.com/rossal.html) in Silver Springs where you could take Rattlesnakes and sell them. Mother loved to take the snakes in as she and us kids got in free to see the Springs and also got $5 for each snake in the 50,s and early 60,s. (later the price went up) Mother would always put the money to good use as money was always needed on the farm.
Daddy would catch the rattlesnake's put them in a bean hamper and keep the hamper in the seed room. The “seed room” was a small room in back of the shop that was wrapped in screen to keep the rats out. If there was a snake in the room there was a lock on the door.
Daddy made a snake hook ( 3' of 1/2” iron pipe with a steel hook wielded on the end), but he would catch them with any thing handy, hoe, pitchfork or tree limb.
I can remember every rattlesnake I ever found. Something about the triangle head, silted eyes, flickering tong, diamond marked skin and the rattle they made seem to burn a spot in your memory. When we were little Daddy was the catcher later all of us boys would catch them.
All the neighbors knew that Daddy would take the rattlesnake and would tell him where they had seen a snake or some would bring them over.
Daddy use to pin the snake head down and pick up the rattlesnake's with his hands but that come to a screeching halt when he was showing us boys the snakes fangs and how the poison came out. The snake's venom got squirted in Daddy's eye's. Mother fussed just a little bit at Daddy over that one.
When we had company or relatives over we would show off any rattlesnake that we had. Daddy or one of my older brothers would get a snake out, dump him on the ground in front of the shop. Then we would have a snake show. Some time's we would blow up a balloon and the snake would strike it making a loud pop.
After school we would run in the front door of the house drop our book's then out the back door to the shop to see what Daddy was doing. One day my oldest brother George ran out the back door jumping the steps and out to the shop. When he came back there was a rattlesnake on the steps. Good thing he jumped that day.
One day a Otis a man from East Reddick came in the yard blowing his car horn. Daddy was in the shop with some of us boys and when we got to the car the man was shaking. Otis was picking oranges and some of the other men picking with him found the snake and put it in a bag in the back of his car. Otis gave Daddy the keys to the trunk, when Daddy got the snake from the car and dumped him out on the ground we heard a noise. We turned around to see what was going on, Otis was on the top of his car and would not come down till Daddy put the snake in a hamper.
Once Daddy was going some where in the car when he found a snake. There was nothing in the car to put the snake in so Daddy placed the rattlesnake in the trunk. After Daddy got home he could not find the snake, after a long search the rattlesnake was found under the drivers seat. The snake found a hole in the panel and got out of the trunk. That ended placing the snakes loose in the car.
Mother and some of us kids were working in a peanut field at the Raisers farm, when some one found a rattlesnake Daddy was combining peanuts so he had a sack. Daddy had Mother hold the sack and he was going to put the snake in with a pitchfork. Every time Daddy got the snake near Mother she would throw the sack at the snake. Daddy soon gave up and held the sack while Mother put the snake in the bag.
The heaviest one we caught was in Lowell, I was sent to a quail farm to disk and plant some crops for the quail. When I got to the farm I backed the tractor up to a quail feeder in the woods to wait for Daddy to show me what to do. I had never seen a quail feeder before so I walked back over the disk jumped down near the feeder and when I heard the rattlesnake I levitated back to the tractor seat. That one was not but 4' long but his body was over 7” wide and his head was 4” wide. The snake hook would not fit him.
Daddy use to bank at Florida First National Bank in Ocala. It was on the square with a drive up exterior teller on the street (It was a metal box with mirrors in it so you could see the lady in the bank.) There was always a guard there and he loved to talk. When Daddy would pull up the guard would always come up, prop his right foot on the step on the pick-up truck , rest his right arm on the truck bed and talk and talk till Daddy was blue in the face. You could not drive off with the guard on the truck. The guard did that one day when Daddy had a rattlesnake in a hamper right under the guard right arm. Daddy said “don't think you should do that there is a rattlesnake in the back of the truck”. The guard laughed and did not stop talking. When Daddy reached back between the guard and the cab of the truck and hit the hamper. When the snake started rattling the guard started moving. The guard never rested his foot on Daddy's truck again. When the guard saw Daddy or Mother coming up he would start backing up. He would talk leaning up on the bank, across the side walk, when Daddy got his deposit slip he would wave and off he would go.
One day in the 40's Daddy and Uncle Hubert were looking for hogs across the road from the house when they found two snakes, Uncle Hubert was telling Daddy about a snake that he was about to step on and there was another one under the log that Uncle Hubert was standing on. With Uncle Hubert watching the snakes Daddy went back to the house to get two bean hampers to put them in. Another $10.00 Daddy said that Mother bought a lot of diapers and socks with the rattlesnake money.
I was working at a new neighbor's (Doc) farm when I found a very big snake but when I went to the truck to get some thing to put it in the Doc drove up in his truck. He ask what I was looking for, when I told him a sack or some thing to put a rattlesnake in, Doc jumped back in his truck. After telling him about Ross Allens and selling the snakes he reached for the gun rack grabbed a shot gun and emptied in on the poor snake, then he reached in his wallet and gave me $20 and drove off.
The last snake was caught by Stanley and me. We were spreading fertilizer for “Uncle Billy” and found a 5' one Stanley and several of his friends took it to Ross Allens.
Donald and Edith Ellen