By Tumbleweed Smith
The Commerce Journal
Jackie Bibby lives at Rising Star, or as he calls it, Twinkle City. He is the Texas Rattlesnake Man and has the credentials and bites to prove it. He does some crazy things with snakes.
“I’ve been in the Guinness Book of World Records nine times for doing things like holding snakes in my mouth, suspended by their tails. I do one stunt where I get in a see-through bathtub with 195 rattlesnakes.RATTLING AROUND WITH JACKIE
I get in sleeping bags full of snakes both head first and feet first.”
He makes his living as an alcohol and drug counselor, but he’s been fooling around with snakes as a hobby and a sport for 43 years.
“It started in Brownwood when I was 18 years old and won the rattlesnake sacking event. There was a competition to see who could put the most rattlesnakes in a tow sack and I won. I won two trophies and got my name in the paper and the rest is history. I’ve been doing it ever since. I tried to enter the year before when I was 17, but they said I was too young and to come back next year, so I did.”
His hobby has taken him to Europe 14 times, to Asia once and all over the US, including several trips to New York and Hollywood. He is a snake celebrity and people at rattlesnake roundups pose for pictures with him and get his autograph. At those events he wears a derby hat made of rattlesnake skins. He has garnered tons of publicity, including a page on a Jeff Foxworthy calendar. On it, a picture of Jackie carries the phrase, “If you ask for an autograph at a rattlesnake roundup, you might be a redneck.” A couple of years ago Jackie started a television show.
“It’s called Rattlesnake Republic and comes on Sunday nights at 8 o’clock on Animal Planet. The ratings have been fabulous. We’ve had phenomenal response. It’s about four teams of rattlesnake hunters that go around Texas chasing rattlesnakes and competing against each other and doing shows, stuff like that.”
If you’ve ever seen a rattlesnake safety film that shows the underside of a man’s arm with a huge zigzag scar on it from armpit to wrist, that arm belongs to Jackie. He’s been snake bit 10 times. He has a few fingers that don’t work as well as they used to, but says anything you do for fun is risky. “I’ve definitely been a model for ‘don’t do this at home.’”
Rattlesnake season is from February to April. Jackie says Texas has only seven rattlesnake roundups now. When he started there were 42. He blames environmentalists for shutting down a lot of them.
“They think what we’re doing is messing up the ecology and get down on us.”
During off-season he does seminars, corporate events, safety demonstrations for schools and benefits for non-profit organizations. Jackie is one happy fellow. “I never thought at 61 years old I’d be having this much fun.”