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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.

March 13, 2007 — 9:20 am
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