Scales and Tales

Not the Best Way to Keep Your New Bride Around

Earl & Maude Brockelsby in the early 1940's.Earl & Maude Brockelsby

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:

Snake Hunting

When Maude and I were first married [1940], 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.

Snakes Galore!

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.




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Sky Dome

Step inside the Sky Dome to experience a warm tropical climate while exploring our indoor jungle filled with exotic and unique flora and fauna. 

Rattlesnake Gulch

Try your hand at gemstone sluicing or go on a 3D safari. Our very own old west ghost town as numerous photo opportunities and activities to keep the kids entertained.

Cheyenne's Habitat

Cheyenne the bald eagle has been a permanent resident of Reptile Gardens for 11 years with permission of the US Fish & Wildlife Service.

Maniac's habitat

Maniac is our resident giant saltwater crocodile. At over 16 feet long and1,350pounds, he is one of the largest giant crocodiles in the western hemisphere. If you don't see him at his enclosure inside the SkyDome, make sure to check outside!

Prairie Dog Town

Get down to eye-level with these fuzzy little animals and see firsthand what life is like in a typical prairie dog town!

Methuselah's Playground

Methuselah was a giant Galapagos Tortoise weighing in at over 600 pounds, and a long time resident of Reptile Gardens. His memory lives on at this playground featuring a bronze statue of Methuselah himself. 

Snake Show stage

Get up-close-and-personal with our snake ambassadors in this family-friendly snake handling show.

Gator Show stage

Dozens of Alligators, Crocodiles, and Caimans and one keeper...what could go wrong? Separate fact from fiction in this educational, family-friendly show and get a chance to pet Fluffy, our baby gator!

Bird Show stage

Interact with birds from around the world at the Bird Show, where they love to show off their beauty and intelligence. 

Gift Shop

Carrying a wide variety of Reptile Gardens souvenirs as well as educational books for every age and a variety of stunning rocks, minerals, and fossils from all over the world.

Green Parrot Cafe

Hungry? Refuel with buffalo burgers, The Maniac burger, Black Mamba Shakes, Indian Tacos, and more!

Giant Tortoise

Don't miss this photo opportunity! Get up-close and personal with these friendly giants who love to have their neck scratched and are great with kids. 

Tortuga Falls

Take a stroll through this meditative garden, gaze into our turtle and koi pond, listen to the waterfalls, and don't miss Darwin the Kookaburra! 

Walking Garden

We're about more than just Reptiles! Our outdoor gardens are beauty to be seen as they change throughout the season and year after year. 

Living Wall

This vertical garden is a wall of color that grows and changes through the Summer season creating striking patterns and unique portraits as it grows. 

Pet A Python

Don't miss your chance to Pet a Python!  Our snake handlers ar here to talk about any questions or myths you've heard about snakes. Don't forget your camera! Our pythons are very photogenic and love to photos with you!