Posted on 01/20/2009
Rattlesnakes on giant Texas King Ranch were a common sight. For every famous name that has been associated with the west, there are thousands of forgotten people who rode the dust choking cattle trails, fought battles and endured hardships of every kind. They were the people who did the everyday, mundane and often dangerous jobs. And most of them loved every minute of the adventure.
“When I was only 14 years old, I was one of 13 boys who were involved in a cattle drive of 1,900 head. It took us two full days to cross the King Ranch, One day I killed 13 rattlesnakes before noon. These were mostly sand rattlers 3 to 4 feet long and a few big diamond backs, some as long as six feet and more. The other boys on the drive killed just as many as I did. The cattle had stirred them up, and there were no rocks out there to kill them with. We’d just slap our ropes down hard on them and break their backs. We never even had to leave the saddle. We had several calves and horses bit. Those poor little calves heads would swell up like a melon, so they couldn’t see, and we put them in a wagon. Most of them we’d catch and poke their heads full of holes with our pocket knives, to let the pus out. They’d get well most of the time, but once in a while they’d die. It was the same with horses. They would be bit up around the head because they were moving along grazing. Their heads would swell up so bad that it looked as if they were going to pop open.
One day while we were crossing the King Ranch, I just couldn’t take the sand and dust anymore, so I rode my horse out into a water hole. When the water was up to my horses’ head, I took off my clothes and washed the dust out of them, took a bath, and put my clothes back on wet. It was so hot that my clothes were dry in 30 minutes.”
These memories came from a book entitled, “Texas Cowboy- The Oral Memoirs of Roland A. Warnock and his Life on the Texas Frontier, published by Trans Pecos Productions.