If most people had the kind of year Jackie Bibby's gone through, they'd seriously consider changing professions.
Then again, most people wouldn't be a snake handler in the first place.
By any measure, Bibby, a world-record holder in several snake-handling categories, has had a very rough past 12 months, the low point coming last September when a bite from a 6-foot-long rattlesnake ended up costing him most of his right leg.
While losing a leg would cause most people to reexamine their direction in life, Bibby keeps plugging away, walking into cages full of venomous snakes and performing stunts that would cause most to cringe, if not faint outright, at the mere thought — seriously, would you put six live rattlesnakes in your mouth?
Less than a week after a hospital stay caused by another serious rattler bite, Bibby is back in action this weekend at the American Business Club's annual Big Spring Rattlesnake Roundup, which continues through Sunday at the Howard County Fair Barns.
“I've had to make some adjustments, but not too many drastic adjustments,” he said of his routines, which include crawling into a sleeping bag full of snakes and resting a rattlesnake atop his head. “I'm still doing everything I've always done in my shows, just a little more slowly and carefully.”
Bibby's attitude may seem a little cavalier to some, but his tone of voice turns serious when he talks about the episode which cost him his leg.
“I was doing a show in Dallas in front of about 300 spectators,” he recalled. “I walked too close to a 6-foot rattler and he got me above my right boot. They rushed me to the hospital, but there had been too much venomation (damage from the snake's venom). My right leg was just dead … and they amputated it above the knee three days later.”
His most recent incident happened earlier this month, when he was loading snakes onto his truck at his Rising Star home to transport them to a show in Brownwood. A rattler reached out, biting him in the stomach area. This wound cost him another trip to the hospital and several injections of anti-venom, but he was up and about a few days later, getting ready for this weekend's show in Big Spring.
Despite all his medical woes, Bibby, who recently turned 63, said he has no intentions of retiring anytime soon.
“I've been doing this for 43 years,” he said. “I'm not about to stop now.”
Bibby's show is one of the highlights of this year's roundup, which began its 49th run Saturday morning.
About 400 pounds of rattlers were caught by hunters Friday, with even more expected to come in Saturday. AMBUCS officials said that represented an increase in the number of snakes caught in 2012.
Sunday's hours are noon to 5 p.m. Day passes are $5 for visitors ages 12 and older and $3 for younger children. Admission is free to the arts and crafts section. Both are being held at the Howard County Fair Barns off FM 700.
Among the features of this year's show are snake-handling and safety demonstrations by club members, as well as a milking demonstration — venom extracted from rattlers is routinely used in medical research. Venom collected at this year's event will be sold to BioTech, a medical firm.