Rattlesnake Roundup starts Saturday

Apparently, it's going to take more than a serious snake bite to keep Jackie Bibby away from the Big Spring Rattlesnake Roundup.Bibby, who holds several world records for snake-handling, was loading rattlesnakes for transport to a show in Brownwood earlier this month when he was bitten in the stomach by one of the creatures. He was rushed to Brownwood Regional Medical Center and received several injections of anti-venom. At one point, he was listed in critical condition in the hospital's intensive care unit, the Brownwood News reported.It seems, however, that Bibby made a speedy recovery.“We saw that report, also, and naturally, we were very concerned,” said Ray Alexander of the Big Spring chapter of the American Business Club, which is hosting this weekend's roundup. “But we talked to him and he said he was fine and that he would be here.”Bibby's exploits are expected to be one of the major highlights of the 49th annual Big Spring roundup, which will be held Saturday and Sunday at the Howard County Fair Barns.The event begins with hunters bringing in their catches today, 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 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 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.But the major draw will be Bibby, the self-proclaimed Texas Snake Man, who hails from Rising Star. Bibby holds five Guinness World Records involving snakes and has been a handler for more than 40 years. He and his cohorts will perform a variety of stunts, including crawling into a sleeping bag full of snakes and putting several rattlers into his mouth (Bibby's record is 13).Bibby (reach him at www.jackiebibby.com) is also a regular on Rattlesnake Republic, which airs periodically on Animal Planet.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. There will be a mixture of items, ranging from jewelry to caps to clothing items.For more information, contact Dennis Burns at 263-3409.