How to kill a rattlesnake

Nuggets from the Past

February 25, 2010 

The Bill Crooks 1983 tape-recorded account while touring Grub Gulch is found in the Coarsegold Historical Society's book "As We Were Told, Vol. 1." He tells what the town on Road 600 was like in the old days. Reading the account, one can almost picture it in its heyday. Interesting highlights of the interview are as follows:

"The cousins: Among the many nationalities that made up the California mining population of the last half of the 19th century were the Cornishmen from Cornwall County of southwestern England.

In the Mother Lode country they were known as Cousin Jacks and Cousin Jennies. Cousin Jacks were welcomed in the deep mines because of their experience in hard rock mining in the tin and copper mines of Cornwall.

Many of the early settlers of the Ahwahnee-Grub Gulch area were originally from Cornwall. While these Cornishmen may have been attracted to the area by the gold mines, many of them soon abandoned mining in favor of homesteading or other activities."

Cornishmen were well known in Ahwahnee and Grub Gulch "because of their pronounced accents and other attributes.

"How to kill a rattlesnake: Pap always contended that a rattlesnake could be killed by spitting tobacco juice into its mouth. One person who expressed doubt of this contention was Dr. Lee Seward, the first medical director at the Ahwahnee Sanitorium and a long time family friend.

One day as Pap and I were coming back from Raymond with a load of oil for the Sanitorium, we came upon a rattlesnake in the road. Pap stopped and, with a stick, was able to maneuver the snake into a sack which he then tied on to the back of the truck. Parenthetically, we found and killed another snake farther along the road that same afternoon, an unusual occurrence.

"When we got to the Sanitorium, Pap had Dr. Seward come out so that he could see with his own eyes the effects of tobacco on rattlesnakes. Pap released the snake from the sack and pinned it to the ground with a forked stick that he had cut on the way home.

With another stick, he pried the snake's mouth open and spit tobacco juice into the mouth. Within five minutes the snake was dead. Dr. Seward was duly impressed.

"As I look back on this demonstration, there appear to have been three possibilities: 1. Snakes are fatally allergic to tobacco juice. 2. Pap drowned the snake. Or 3. Pap pressed mighty hard on the forked stick. Knowing Pap would bet on three with the outside possibility of two. Quien sabe?

"As I wrote this I think I heard Pap chuckle."

"As We Were Told "may be purchased at the Coarsegold Historic Museum, Fresno Flats Museum in Oakhurst, Dorsey's Hallmark and Oakhurst Gift Works.

The Sierra Star is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service