Thursday, March 18, 2010

Snaky George

Note: This may be the last blog I will do for the next 2 weeks.
If I get access to the internet, I will keep posting.
In the meantime, I will leave you with a story from my "Ozark Animal Oddities" file.

Rattlesnake Farming…
This may sound a bit odd, but for industry in the Ozarks, the motto is “work with what you’ve got.” Apparently, this is what was going on in Ozark County in 1891. I have come across two gentlemen who were harvesting a deadly nectar for a sweet profit. The first name I came across was Mr. Childs.
Needless to say, this caught my attention, and I decided to look a little further into this commerce and found “Snaky George.”
How far did the fame of this Ozark enterprise travel? “Snaky George” found his way into notoriety & prominence all the way to Biloxi, Saint Paul, and Philadelphia. In quick succession, this Ozark County venture came into distinction half way around the world…“Down Under.” “Snaky George’s” fame haled to the shores of the The Wanganui Chronicle & The Timarn Herald in New Zealand.
Enjoy the article.


There is a strange kind of industry which is being carried on in America just now, which is apparently very profitable to the man engaged in it, but which nobody, we imagine, will desire to see introduced into New Zealand. The business we refer to is that of a rattlesnake farm. An interesting account of the undertaking is given in the Philadelphia Record. It was stated by an old Tennessean named George Jakes, familiarly known as “Snaky George," who is rapidly making a fortune out of rattlesnake oil, which it appears is a great demand among American druggists.

Jakes selected a piece of rocky land in the Ozark mountains, quite useless for agriculture, but, in the midst of a country abounding in rattlesnakes. When he took it the neighbours were astounded at his folly in going on such worthless land, and more, especially when they saw the , remarkable manner in which he sat about " improving" it. Instead of clearing off the rocks, he tried to get more there, and soon he had built a veritable shakes' retreat. He built a house of stone, but cemented it thoroughly inside and out, for, while he made a living from snakes, he did not care to have too close a companionship with them. Having arranged his farm, he set about stocking it, daily bringing home fresh residents for his farm from the surrounding hills. About four years ago he completed his work stocking his place, and now he is reaping the benefit. Snakes are everywhere on the place, and on a warm day the sight on the hills back of the house says the Review, would give a drinking man the impression that "he had'em again." Rattlesnakes of all sizes and conditions are seen lying around in profusion or crawling over the rocks, spuirining and twisting in heaps, while the deadly whirr of the rattle makes music which strikes terror to the heart of one unaccustomed to the situation. Above all is that terrible nauseating odour which fills the whole air and drives away one not accustomed to such an offensive scent. “Snaky George" estimates that there" are 10,000 full-grown rattlesnakes on the place, and says that he kills an average of 2000 every season. He watches for them at a spot where he , has been accustomed to feed them, catches them .with a slip noose of wire, and then, boils them down.. One good sized rattler, we are told, will make a pint of oil, and', this brings 1 dol. 50 cents a pint, or nets Jaques about one dollar after all expenses of rendering, bottling, and shipping are paid. It is evident, therefore, that “there is money in it." Obviously, however, it is a business which only a strictly sober man ought to embark in. And we sincerely hope that it will be strictly confined to the limits of the Ozark mountains.

Works Cited:
“The Strangest Trade in the World.” Wanganui Chronicle, 36.11637 (14 Sept. 1891) 1. Papers Past. National Library of New Zealand 25 Dec. 2009
“A Rattlesnake Farm.” Timarn Herald 54. 5367 (20 Feb. 1892) 3. Papers Past. National Library of New Zealand 25 Dec. 2009
“The Great West.” Saint Paul Daily Globe (23 Sept., 1894) 4. Access Newspaper Archive. Baxter County Library, Mountain Home, AR. 25 Dec. 2009
“George Jaynes.” Biloxi Herald 8.12 (19 Dec. 1891) 4. Access Newspaper Archive. Baxter County Library, Mountain Home, AR. 25 Dec. 2009

No comments: