Wednesday, June 29, 2016
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South Texas Living


Henry’s rattlesnake belt


Henry’s rattlesnake belt


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Julia Castro
Apple Pie and Salsa
April 30, 2014
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I was standing next to my son, Frank, at an outing with some of the family on Easter Sunday when he pulled out a rattlesnake’s tail, which consisted of about seven or eight rattles. He wiggled it in front of my face. I’m too old to scare like that. What did scare me was the thought that he had killed it around where he lived with his family. They have two teenage daughters. I asked him that, but he said “no,” that they had killed it on the road while driving to Beeville to do a job down there. I told him that it reminded me of the one that his dad had killed years ago. He knew what I was talking about. And I knew I had my next story.

It happened one morning while Henry was delivering the San Antonio Light. (He did it from 1986 to 1993.) It was in an area that was not yet very populated, and there was a wooded area. He saw a rattlesnake crawling out of a ditch, and he stopped the car. He was prepared. He always carried a piece of rubber hose in the car. He waited until it started crawling across the road and was stretched out. He got behind it and hit it on the head with the hose. It didn’t kill it but it knocked it out. He proceeded to put it in a burlap sack (yes, he carried that in the car, too), and threw it in the trunk. It was a weekday so he had put all the papers in the car and didn’t have to use the trunk. He was almost through with the route so he went ahead and finished it. He remembered that our good friend, Felipe Trujillo, had once asked him if he ever killed a rattlesnake if he would let him have it. He had eaten rattlesnake meat before and liked it. So as soon as he finished the route, he headed to Trujillo’s Boot and Shoe Repair. I had Henry tell me in detail just how he handled the snake! He said that since he wasn’t sure if it was dead or not, he had tied the bag at the top and twisted it tightly all the way down to where the snake was so that it wouldn’t have room to move. When he opened the trunk, he took the tire tool and ran it through a loop that he had made at the top. He pulled it out, being careful not to swing it too close to his body. He threw it on the ground and before the snake had time to move he untied the bag and opened it up. Felipe had been standing outside but when he saw the snake crawling out he headed for the door and went inside. Henry was ready with the piece of hose and this time he hit it enough times to kill it. At the time, Felipe and his family were living in the back part of the building and they kept a second refrigerator in the shop. After Henry cut off the snake’s head and rattles, Felipe told Henry that he would clean it later. He told him to put the snake in the freezer. Henry did as he told him. Felipe’s wife, Esperanza, had been in the back and had not seen where they had put the snake. She opened the freezer and the snake fell out! Of course it scared her and she screamed. She wasn’t too happy with her husband.

Henry had been talking to Felipe about the possibility of Felipe making him a belt with the snake’s skin. Felipe told him he could do it. It was long enough, at least 5 feet. And so he did, putting a buckle on it that Henry had with an H on it. Henry enjoyed wearing it, but eventually because it had not been cured properly, the scales began to peel off. But Henry has kept it all these years. Sometimes he used it to intimidate grandkids when they misbehaved, but he never used it on any of them.

Julia Castro, a retired Head Start teacher and mother of 10, lives in Floresville with her husband, Henry. Her email is castrojulia022@gmail.com.
 

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