Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Lyndon Olson and Rattlesnakes

Eric Timaeus does not use gasoline to flush out snakes. Here
he uses a mirror to reflect light into a possible snake den.
There have been several stories related to snakes in the newspapers recently, particularly on poisonous snakes. One feature article was about the rattlesnake roundup sponsored by theTexas Jaycees in Sweetwater, in North Central Texas. Apparently, they gather snakes by pouring gasoline down likely rattlesnake dens and catch the rattlers as they crawl out. They then gather them all in one arena and throw them in a big pit for the amusement of spectators who come to the festival. I am told there is a charity element to this in that they donate the snakes to those who milk the venom which is used thereafter as anti-venom to treat snake bites and other ailments.
The other was an extensive article about religious snake handling at some back wood churches in Kentucky. The upshot of the story was that a preacher who handled snakes on a regular basis as part of his worship ceremony got bitten and died on the way to the hospital. 

In reading the snake stories I was reminded of a story connected with some political shenanigans of one of my old colleagues. Lyndon Olson, with whom I served in the House of Representatives, represented Waco. Lyndon, as a child, had a terrible accident which resulted in amputation of both of his legs slightly above the knee. He was fitted with artificial limbs which, to his credit, he learned to use rather well. As a matter of fact, most casual observers would not know he was not walking on God-given legs but artificial limbs.

Lyndon, being extroverted as most politicians are, told the story about attending one of the rattlesnake roundups somewhere in his district. At the time he was opposed by a minor candidate seeking to turn him out of office, so Lyndon was making the rounds of all of the festivals and gatherings campaigning for re-election. While attending the rattlesnake festival--apparently there was a pit full of vipers which in and of itself is a rather scary sight--Lyndon boasted that he had more courage than his would-be opponent. With that brag, Lyndon strode into the pit full of vipers walking and kicking rattlesnakes right and left, wholly without fear of them biting his artificial limbs. Most of the crowd did not realize Lyndon was fitted with such appliances and stood in awe while he bravely strode through the pile of rattlesnakes in the pit. Of course his opponent did not rise to the challenge and do the same thing. Lyndon was still laughing about it six months after the occurrence.

I suppose you could say that, if there is any moral to the story, it is sometimes true that a clever politician will even out-snake a rattlesnake to get re-elected.

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