Snakes rattle and roll at Sweetwater roundup
SWEETWATER - There was no rattling Miss Snake Charmer. When it came time to skin her second-ever rattlesnake, Trinity McGee stepped right in.
"People will probably think I'm kind of crazy, but it's actually exhilarating," she said. "Especially when you get to chop off the head, it's really fun."
The first snake she previously skinned was just a few weeks ago at media day for the World's Largest Rattlesnake Roundup. That snake, she confided, was much smaller than the one she wrangled in the Coliseum on Friday.
Over a half-century of education
The roundup was founded in Sweetwater 65 years ago with the intent of controlling the snake population that had the uncomfortable habit of coming to town.
The Miss Snake Charmer pageant is an extension of the roundup, starting the year following that initial gathering.
Trinity is a senior at Sweetwater High School and the class president. She is a standout in volleyball, track, basketball and cheerleading, and is an active member of the National Honors Society. After graduation, she plans to attend Texas Tech University and study nursing.
"I wanted to be Miss Snake Charmer because I want to represent my family and my community," she said. "I'm so glad to have this opportunity to be an advocate for my community and other young children."
For the next year, Trinity will represent Sweetwater at regional events, as well as meet visitors at the roundup, which finished Sunday.
"The roundup is good for Sweetwater, it's a huge economic gain," she said. "It brings in people from all over the world. Hotels are filled up in the surrounding areas and it gives small business owners and vendors a chance to get their name out there."
Hunters brought in rattlesnakes all weekend, earning $13 a pound for the first 3,000 pounds, then $7 a pound for the remaining 3,000 pounds they are allotted.
The prize for the longest snake was $400, with another $500 tacked on if the longest snake record of 81.5 inches was broken.
After they're brought in, snakes are weighed, measured and then milked for their venom. The Sweetwater Jaycees who run the event say they collect the toxin for university researchers studying cancer and other ailments.
Once milked, the snakes go to the skinning pit where a crew chops the head off, then separates the skin from the musculature, the latter being sent to the Nolan County Coliseum's concession stand upstairs. There its rolled in cornmeal, deep fried, and served alongside burgers, hot dogs and fries for anyone interested.
And plenty are, as some bring plastic resealable bags to take the delicacy home with them.
Mattie Bowman, a science teacher at Sweetwater High, was sitting in the coliseum bleachers licking her fingers as she ate snake for the first time. The meat can be a little bony, but that didn't seem to deter Bowman.
“It’s pretty good,” she said. “I’m usually not a fan of bones but I hate snakes, so that might change it for me.”
This article originally appeared on Abilene Reporter-News: Snakes rattle and roll at Sweetwater roundup