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|| News Item: Posted 2007-04-25

Snakes Alive!!!
By Mark Stallings

Photo by Mark Stallings

Photo by Mark Stallings

With the rough Texas ranch land as a backdrop, Dennie Braswell cages a live rattlesnake high on a mountain near Bronte, TX.
Dennie Braswell's eyes squinted in the bright Texas sun as he surveyed the familiar mountainside he had transverse for years in search of his quarry. He looks much younger than his age. This 69-year-old native Texan looks like he could work most men half his age into the dirt. There is no doubt he can walk this 47-year-old photographer into the dust of the west Texas plains.

He proved that and also proved his metal a few weeks ago when he and his best friend Steve Rives checked in 1,600 lbs of live rattlesnakes!!! In addition to winning the World's Largest Rattlesnake Round Up in Sweetwater, TX, they also hosted a writer and me to a real Texas rattlesnake hunt that netted 17 nice western diamond back rattlesnakes.

I was assigned to cover this event along with writer Sam Eifling for ESPN Outdoors. It was an assignment and an experience I will always remember.

Here are the Good, the Bad and the Ugly of this unique assignment:

The Good: No doubt getting to meet and make friends with Dennie and Steve. They were really great guys and the kind of people that I relate to. Over the years I've photographed many different individuals, but these two guys are just plain quality country folks. It was a pleasure to get to work with them and I can't wait to go back and hunt snakes with them again.

The Bad: Surprisingly not the highly poisonous snakes. The snakes really didn't bother this photographer who was born and raised in the country. I still live in a rural area and the outdoors is my bailiwick. Not even lying on the floor of a pit with live rattlesnakes in order to get a better angle really bothered me. However, the honeybees were a different story. It's not uncommon for wild honeybees to build hives in snake dens. In just such a den, we found out the hard way that these weren't just any wild honeybees. They were Africanized bees, which are a little more aggressive and sent the writer and me running wildly up the mountain. They chased us about 100 yards up the mountainside and into my pick up truck. One sting later and a pick up truck full of bees (I'd left my window down) and I was ready to move on to another snake den.

The Ugly: I didn't think trying a little fried rattlesnake would bother me. After all, I've eaten my share of wild critters over the years. However, I never do well with smells. If you've never been around the skinning of thousands of rattlesnakes, you haven't missed much, including the smell. It's awful … enough to cause me to lose my appetite and almost my breakfast.

Yes, those are all live rattlesnakes in that pit. Tough job, but someone has to do it.

To read the four-part article and view the photo galleries on ESPN Outdoors, go to the following link:

(Mark Stallings is a Greenwood, AR-based freelancer who regularly covers outdoor sports for many different clients. He also recently co-authored a book "The Season: A Photographic Look at the Sport of Duck Hunting" available from You can also visit his website:

Related Links:
Mark's member page

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