(This is part of the Growing Up In Utah's Dixie series, by LaVarr B. Webb)


If I remember right, the year was 1931 and I was about

10 years old. It was summer time, and Virgin was overrun

with mice, rats, squirrels and skunks. The town leaders, I

think Alma Flannigan was mayor, decided to have a "tail

party." The town was split into two districts that were to

compete against each other.


The competition involved seeing how many of the

pests each district could catch. Trappers were to collect

tails and turn them in to the district leaders. Points were

awarded for each tail, and rat tails were worth more than

mice tails, and skunk tails were the most valuable of all. A

careful record was kept, and after a given length of time, a

winner was declared, and the losing team had to put on a

big party for the winners.


I can't remember which team won, and I don't remember

anything about the party, but I do remember running a

trap line, and catching an endless number of rats, squirrels

and skunks. I became proficient at setting traps, and even

clubbing skunks before they were able to spray me. But, I

am sure, a rank odor traveled with me that had nothing to

do with B.O.


One day I was walking my trap line, collecting squirrel

and skunk tails. I had set one trap quite high up in a hole in

a dirt bank. Without thinking, I reached into the hole,

grasped the chain to which the trap was attached, and

pulled the works out of the hole.


At that moment I heard an unmistakable and chilling

noise and I nearly jumped out of my shoes. I lost my balance

and tumbled down the dirt bank, bouncing against a

tree at the bottom of the slope, chills racing up and down

my spine.


A large rattlesnake was caught in the trap. The jaws

had clamped down on his middle, and about two feet of tail

and head were thrashing freely on each side of the trap. I

had placed my hand up against the trap and it was pure

luck I wasn't bitten.


I had been expecting a squirrel. The rattlesnake was a

very frightening surprise. I pulled my mind and body back

together, killed the snake, and collected its rattles.


It seems that everyone cut the rattles from the snakes

they killed. They became trophies -- something to brag

about -- but they also could be handy for frightening people,

even emptying rooms. We would make a loop out of string.

The looped string would be about 14 inches long. Then we

would tie a snakes rattle in the center of the loop.


We would rub our fingers with rosin, then place them

in the loops of the string. By rotating our hands, with the

tight string moving on our rosined fingers, we could make

the rattles vibrate. It sounded just like a rattlesnake. It

was great sport to steal up behind an unsuspecting soul

and scare him out of his wits by making the rattles chatter.