During the many years we have collected snakes, we have accumulated dozens of experiences, some of which were nearly tragic, but as long as they didn’t end in tragedy, they can be looked back upon with humor.
In honor of Maude Brockelsby’s 93rd birthday this week, I would like to offer this article which was written in 1965 by Reptile Gardens founder, Earl Brockelsby. He wrote it as part of a series of articles commemorating our move that year to our current location.
From the Earl Archives:
When Maude and I were first married , we were visiting friends near Alzada, Montana. I used to catch quantities of rattlesnakes in that area but since it was early in the Spring, I doubted if there would be any snakes out of their dens. As a result, I was not equipped with the usual flour sacks in which we transported the rattlesnakes we caught. However, a sheepherder told us he had seen a number of rattlesnakes out. So, we prowled through a nearby prairie dog town and caught some rattlers and bullsnakes – a total of 26 specimens in less that an hour.
I put the snakes into the only thing I had, a cardboard box, in the trunk of the car and we set out for Rapid City shortly before dark. There were frequent questions from Maudie as to the security of the cardboard box and each time I assured her the snakes couldn’t escape.
Shortly after dark I became aware that some of the snakes had indeed escaped and were crawling in the roof of the car between the lining and the metal top.
Maudie told me she was sure some of the snakes had escaped, and just as I assured her again it was her imagination, out from under the dashboard came a bullsnake straight for her lap. Before I could bring the car to a complete stop, Maudie had thrown open the door and jumped – after rolling over several times on the side of the road, she yelled for me to get out of the car.
There were both rattlesnakes and bullsnakes in roof, in the dash, in the springs of the seats of the car, and up into the upholstery. One had even crawled between my feet, up under the dash, and somehow made his way through the firewall and to the top of the motor. I collected all the snakes I could find, tied a blanket around the cardboard box, and drove hurriedly into Rapid City.
An Amazing Woman
I am sure that a lesser woman would have walked rather that take another chance on riding in a car in which there could be more inquisitive snakes prowling about. And surely that would have been the end of most marriages but Maudie is made of stronger stuff. We never did know when all the snakes left the car, but it was traded a few weeks later and I hope the new owner didn’t find it equipped with moving parts he hadn’t expected.