AMBUCS get ready for 49th roundup

No one would ever call them cuddly or even particularly friendly, but rattlesnakes will soon be very popular here in Big Spring.The American Business Club's 49th annual Rattlesnake Roundup returns to the Howard County Fair Barns March 22-24, and hundreds — if not thousands — of the slimy, poisonous reptiles will be on display.The event begins with hunters brining in their catches Feb. 22, then opens to the public the next two days. Day passes are $5 for visitors ages 12 and older and $3 for younger children. Admission is free to the arts and crafts section.Cold weather, which drove the snakes further underground, is considered the major cause for a below-average number of snakes on display at last year's event, but Ray Alexander has reasons to believe this year's roundup will be more successful.“We didn't have a whole lot of snakes last year, but it's looking better this year,” Alexander said. “For one thing, the prices the snakes are bringing are better this year, plus the weather is expected to be warmer this time around. That would sure help our take.”Regardless of the number of snakes on display, however, organizers promise many of the same attractions as in previous years.For starters, club members will go ankle-deep into the snake pit to give handling demonstrations and tips on how to avoid getting bitten if you happen across one of the creatures.“It really is an educational program,” Alexander said. “We show them that these snakes can be really dangerous ... and the best way to handle yourself when and if you come up on one.”Handlers also will present 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.A major draw, as always, will be professional snake handler Jackie Bibby of Fort Worth, who will perform a variety of stunts, including crawling into a sleeping bag full of snakes and putting several rattlers into his mouth.And, if you prefer your rattlesnakes dead, skinned and cooked, fried snake meat will be on sale.In addition, up to 50 vendors are expected for the arts and crafts show, which will be held in conjunction with the roundup. There will be a mixture of items, ranging from jewelry to caps to clothing items.For more information, contact Dennis Burns at 263-3409.