Hunting Rattlers as 1930s Employment Essay

Snakes for Profit Circa 1930

Today I pass along a story about an adventurous boy created quite a pile of money hunting rattlesnakes in the 1930s depression. That is until his Mom found out!

I heard this told from an old-timer, we’ll call him Jack, born and raised in the Denver Metro Area, CO, USA. I believe he was born about 1928 and sadly passed on in about 1996. I don’t doubt that some of his stories were augmented for entertainment, but many of the tales he told were so interesting I choose to document them for posterity.

A Look at the Times and his Rearing

So let us begin with a small boy in the 1930s who captured rattlesnakes and sold them profitably, even in the parsimonious Great Depression times.

His mother was a career woman and divorced his father, which was HIGHLY unusual in those days. He attended school, but had plenty of time to spend afterward until his Mom got off work.

I believe he was a lonely boy, without siblings. But he was highly imaginative in at least one way–walking out from the urban areas, like into ranches and the MANY vacant lots, and then catching and selling live rattlesnakes!

I speculate that perhaps other boys in the area taught him how to do this. Of course many would be very desperate for money. I imagine that a forked tree limb would catch the dangerous head and some sort of scoop could put the reptile in a large glass jar or other container.

I have no idea to whom the rattlesnakes were sold. Perhaps to middle-men who procured them for museums. Maybe there was a way to “milk” the poison from the snake to create anti-venom for medical purposes. Other ideas welcome, please add in the comments section.

Sadly, Jack cannot comment on this now from beyond the grave, or I would ask him now! I did find many of his stories fascinating and may relate others, as I have from my birth family.

Little or no Daycare in Desperate Times

Remember that very little daycare was available in the Depression Times. I know nothing but hearsay about Jack’s mother other than she wished to remain free of men ordering her around.

Henry’s unusual activity was unknown to his mother, who found out in the following way: All of a sudden, money was appearing in Henry’s bureau and other places in his room. His mother first thought that he must be stealing it and demanded an explanation post haste!

Remember, Denver was hardly the metropolis or megalopolis that is is now! Cow pastures and plenty of ranches were nearby, as well as vacant lots, etc. Rattlesnakes generally dislike heavily human populated areas without plenty of range for hunting mice and dirt for burrowing holes. Denver was hardly the concrete and asphalt place it is now. The Depression had made for much vacant and abandoned land.

Jack was forced to reveal the source of the extra money contained therein to his mother. Upon hearing the truth, his mother did not take with any frivolity this activity, fearing he would be bitten and die. She forbade him further activity hunting snakes. If he wanted to do something else for money, OK, but NO SNAKES!

A bright and industious boy, he moved onto other activities. I believe he distributed one of the Denver newspapers, either the Denver Post or the (now defunct) Rocky Mountain News.

Jack Later in Life

Jack became a well-respected member of a growing airline in Denver. With company benefits, he married a conventional woman of the times and raised four children. I speculated that he desired to bring up his children in a less lonely and unsupervised way as he had been brought up and wanted a housewife common to the time.

He was still adventurous and took the family many places, albeit as stand-by passengers, courtesy of the airline. So, in some of the children, a similar sense of adventure took hold. He also arranged employment for some of the grown children to also work for the airline. This would be no easy feat for an outsider of the many unions there. I believe he was unionized, but am not sure.

Jack was quite the talker and joined Toastmasters as one way to tell his stories. He was very articulate and had great non-verbal communication skills (like gesturing to develop suspense) and always a sense of humor. Toastmasters may have perfected his speaking skills, which he practiced using stories for neighbors, church members or anyone else who would listen.

He was also highly active in local city politics (becoming a city councilman) and heavily involved with church activities in his loquacious manner. He made a commitment to get the elderly and disabled to church in a church van each day of services after retiring from the airline.

He was often surrounded by interested listeners for many stories, augmented or not! I personally found him to be very fun, and often surprising! But memories do evolve over time and who among us has not embellished an actual event, after al!?