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Snake: it’s what’s for dinner

Dave in Texas shared his rattlesnake story, so I’ll share mine.

The local rattler where I come from is the Mountain Rattlesnake, Crotalus horridus — short, fat, shy and not terribly venomous. Compared to its Western cousins, anyhow. Despite growing up galumphing about in the woods, I’ve only seen one living rattlesnake. Naturally, we killed it.

Well, it was in our front yard, snoozing in the sun — which was cheeky. My friend took it out with one .22 shot to the head.

We had a strict “you shoot it, we eat it” policy in my family.

“Mother, there’s a dead goat in the sink.”

“Your brother shot it, we have to eat it.”

I have flirted with vegetarianism ever since, out of a weary “dear lord no, not another shattered furry bleeding out in the sink” feeling. I favor meats that look nothing whatever like the animal that made them. Sausages. Paté. Spam. As god is my witness, I will never eat groundhog again.

I didn’t dream the YSIWEI policy would apply to snake.

“Rattlesnake goes for fifty dollars a pound in Texas. Of course, we’ll eat it!”

Well. Back outside, I guess. Our snake — as snakes are wont — would not stop moving. Even decapitated and soaked for an hour in a bucket of salt water, it continued a slow, reflexive coiling and uncoiling. Jesus, no wonder our ancestors thought these things were supernaturally evil.

Apparently, the correct way to skin a snake is to tack one end to the shed and peel the skin off like a gym sock. We did not know this. We are ignorant boo-boos. My friend got scissors and cut it up the belly. Every time the scissors snicked closed, the snake would buck and jive. Ohhhhh, pleasepleaseplease make it stop. Finally, we put the skin in a Mason jar full of instant tea, hoping the tannins would…you know. Tan it. What actually happened, it turned up several months later as a jar of scaly brown diamond-back jell-o.

Meanwhile, back in Mama Weasel’s Kitchen, she washed our handiwork and cut it into small sections. That’s better. I could convince myself these were, like, squab breasts or something. Then she rolled them in cornmeal and pan-fried them, like catfish.

You couldn’t not eat it. My mother was master of the Double Dog Dare. I was the only kid in my circle who continually got in trouble doing stupid stuff my mother dared me to. Frankly, I think that was behind the YSIWEI policy, more than anything. It wasn’t good animal husbandry, Mother just liked watching her children eat absurd things. It was like her own personal showing of Jackass.

Rattlesnake tasted pretty good, actually. Not so much like chicken; more like lobster. It had the same translucent, striated texture. If you could forget what it was, it was probably worth fifty dollars a pound.

Only, you couldn’t possibly forget what it was. Mother would wait until somebody got a big mouthful and blurt, “I heard dying rattlesnakes whip around and bite themselves to poison the meat!” or “say, this isn’t bad FOR A SNAKE!!

Urp. Excuse me. I feel a bout of vegetarianism coming on.


Comment from S. Weasel
Time: March 13, 2007, 9:21 am

There was some excuse for all this game. Meat prices took a sudden jump, big time, at some point in the seventies. You know the intro to the Mary Tyler Moore show? The part where she picks up a steak in the supermarket, rolls her eyes, and flings it in the cart? My memory (which I haven’t been able to confirm by Google) is that this sequence was added in a later season to reflect this price jump. It got a big laugh chez Weasel, anyhow.

Pictures when I get home, if I can find them.

Comment from Alissa
Time: March 13, 2007, 10:46 am

(whispers, reverently:) It’s back. You brought the funny.

Comment from Elzbth
Time: March 13, 2007, 11:16 am

I like your mom!

You’re lucky you didn’t kill a scorpion.

Comment from Christopher Taylor
Time: March 13, 2007, 2:40 pm

I’d like to try Snake some time, it really is supposed to be pretty good. I don’t care if it’s all serpentine, it looks like meat on the plate.

Comment from TattooedIntellectual
Time: March 13, 2007, 5:59 pm

Ooohh, I have a story to share. In my Animal Physiology lab in college we were examining the affect various hormones had on a frog’s heart rhythm. We were each given a pithed frog (scrambled brains) and we had to perform open heart surgery and attach a sensor to the heart. As I’m cutting into the chest of my frog his little hand reaches up and grasps my finger! I was done, I told the lab instructor that my frog wasn’t brain dead enough and there was no way in hell I was cutting into another one. No siree!

Comment from BGG
Time: March 14, 2007, 4:53 am

I think a lot of animals can be peeled rather easily. To skin a grouse, you stand on its wings and pull its legs upwards. It slips right out of its skin. I always thought I’d eat a snake if I had the opportunity but that moving around long after death part would give me pause.

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: March 14, 2007, 5:08 am

I remember frog-pithing day in High School! We didn’t each get one, I’m thankful to say, but the teacher took obvious delight performing the pithing in front of the class. Then snipping the frog’s head off with scissors and hooking it up to electrodes to make it dance. Meh.

Comment from vkaryl
Time: March 14, 2007, 7:36 pm

Snake is good. Like all game, it’s not “like” anything else, it’s itself (we hunt and butcher our own kills, and in good years, that’s the meat we eat – deer, elk, rabbit, pheasant, dove, chukkar, grouse…. so I know whereof I speak…. and if you’ve ever been fairly close to a 16 hand horse, that’s about how big a spike elk is – butchering one is not a real quick easy job. Better meat than beef though by FAR!)

My rattlesnake story…. We live in far southwestern Utah, MUCH closer to Las Vegas than to SLC (thank the goddess….) at 7000 feet on the lovely blue mountain behind the hellhole that’s known as St George. We have horses, so we ride a lot during good weather.

Few years back, we’re headed up the trail behind and south of our house. Get up into the lovely cool dark timber, little trickle of water in the creek, crossing it back and forth….

All of a sudden, my horse (the spotted “dog” – because he really wants to sit in your lap – in other words, a paint, none of which have anything that passes for intellect [it’s the spots, I’m convinced]) stops dead, then LEAPS up the hill about 10 feet. I’m yelling [censored pretty much here], “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING YOU FLEA-BITTEN SON OF A SALSET GOAT!” (borrowing freely from Jen Roberson but I don’t think she’d mind), among other things….

Husband, coming along behind, looks at the place we WERE, and says, “Oh. Well, shit – I should have remembered the pistol…. that’s a timber rattler!”

Saved by the “spotted dog of a salset goat” again…. not that it made me any happier about a sore butt from the bouncing!

[Note: we don’t go out of our way to shoot poisonous snakes. They deserve to live just as everything else does. BUT. On a fairly well-used trail, we will kill them if they don’t immediately head for tall timber. This one didn’t, so husband did it in with a large rock, since he’d forgotten the pistol. You only have to think about a child being bitten…. and a lot of people hike these trails with kids and dogs – and the occasional cat. And yes, we threw it into a saddlebag, took it home, and ate it…. your mama had nothing on us for that!]

[[Corollary: scorpion CAN be eaten, but my understanding from a friend in Africa is that you have to be careful because the venom can be pernicious within the tissues.]]

Comment from S. Weasel
Time: March 15, 2007, 5:24 am

I dunno. About the whole “deserve to live” thing, I mean. I realize that’s a thoroughly modern conceit, but I haven’t bought into it yet. That kind of thinking leads to bad places –like, they’re reintroducing poisonous vipers to parts of Southern England.

A few years ago, the Beijing (I think…it was in China, anyhow) Zoo was forced by “international pressure” (read: us) to take down the sign on an exhibit labeled “Evil Animals.” So many of the ideas we think are settled surely are not.

Comment from jon
Time: March 16, 2007, 12:45 pm


That is really funny – babe.

I am in BKK To.

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