Mangum Rattlesnake Roundup

I woke up on a Sunday morning and unexpectedly had the day free. What to do that costs very little and is fun? Mangum Rattlesnake Roundup! I have heard about this festival for many years and saw in the newspaper the previous day that it was going on this very weekend. Free day, 40 mpg BMW motorcycle, and rattlesnakes. Let’s go! Unfortunately Kay wasn’t able to go with me for this trip.

I hit the superslab out of OKC. My GPS said to follow I-40 way out west, then turn south. But what fun was that? I have been to Mangum many times, both in my airplane and by car, so this time I cut south at El Reno towards Union City, then followed Highway ?? west. It paralleled I-40 most of the way but was WAY more interesting than the Interstate, which I have traveled many, many times.

Following State Highway 152 west takes you through Binger, home of one of baseball’s all time greats, Johnny Bench. I searched around the town on my bike looking for some type of statue, but no luck. For the life of my I can’t figure out why a baseball town like Binger, with such a world famous athlete, would not have a statue of him on their Main Street. Oh well. Maybe it was stolen.

The morning had started a brisk 51 degrees F but was now warming quite nicely. I pulled off my heated vest, opened the vents on my jacket and continued west at a nice clip. Before long a flag on my GPS informed me that one of my plotted Oklahoma Ghost Towns was nearby. I decided to detour to Cloud Chief to see what was there. Nice stop.

Heading south I saw the town of Gotebo my GPS. I have been to Gotebo before, but who can resist going through this famous town one more time? Not much there, but now I have pictures and can ask others “have you been to Gotebo?”

Finally after 180 miles on my uber-comfortable BMW R1200GSA, I pulled into Mangum. There were portable signs warning of a slowdown in traffic. I understand they were expecting upwards of 30,000 people to attend the weekend festivities. I didn’t run into any traffic, but once I got to downtown Mangum I saw the roads blocked off and quite a few people there. My first bit of trepidation was reading the welcome sign hanging across the street. “Welcome to Mangum Rattlesnake Roundup and Swap Meet”. Uh oh, I didn’t really want to ride 180 miles one way for a swap meet.

Fried rattlesnake anyone?

Fried rattlesnake anyone?

I parked my bike, grabbed some camera gear, and headed into the crowds. I kept expecting to step on a wild rattlesnake or at least see people playing with them. No such luck. Most of the stuff for sale was crap you could buy at any local swap meet – basically a bunch of trinkets and other junk. It was even hard to find a cool rattlesnake T-shirt.

On Main Street there was at least a kids carnival and food tents set up – kind of like a poor man’s State Fair. In the middle of the town square a trailer was set up with cages full of rattlesnakes. Cool! But it seems rattlesnakes just like to lay there in the heat of the day (it was now 87 degrees) and rattle their tail when anyone approaches. No attacking, no spitting venom, no eating little kids. I didn’t see any emergency personnel running around hauling snake bitten souls to the hospital. I had half hoped to see someone swallow a live rattlesnake, but no luck. I could have paid $5 to go into a tent and watch snake handlers educate people about snakes. Or $6 and a hot bus ride would have taken me to an old abandoned rattlesnake den, where the handlers would toss a couple of live snakes on the ground and let me photograph them. Maybe if someone was going to do a barefoot rain dance in a snake pit, now that might have gotten me fired up. But it seems a rattlesnake rodeo is really not a rodeo at all – just a bunch of penned up snakes in cages, surrounded by Ferris wheels, kids rides, a midway and junk booths.

I think this should have been named “Mangum Swap Meet/Midway Show with Live Caged Rattlesnakes”. The snakes should get second billing.

Oh well, I can’t always be so lucky. Next week is the Pawnee Steam Engine Show. I have been to that before and it is WAY more interesting than the Mangum Rattlesnake Roundup.

Gotta love Oklahoma.  Tons of toy guns for the kids.

Gotta love Oklahoma. Tons of toy guns for the kids.

This local brought his dog to the Rattlesnake Roundup.  Was he planning to feed the dog to the snakes?  Or maybe the other way around.

This local brought his dog to the Rattlesnake Roundup. Was he planning to feed the dog to the snakes? Or maybe the other way around.

Snakes in cages.  Just laying there rattling.  I guess it is better than snakes in a plane.

Snakes in cages. Just laying there rattling. I guess it is better than snakes in a plane.

This was basically a carnival with a box of snakes.

This was basically a carnival with a box of snakes.

I didn't know they hauled snakes that way.

I didn’t know they hauled snakes that way.

About James Pratt

I am an Oklahoma based writer, photographer, videographer and adventurer. I love telling stories about people. A motorcycle is my preferred means of travel, and I have over 5,000 hours piloting small airplanes.

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