(The article below has been exactly transcribed (with misspelled and grammar mistakes) from FIFTY-FIVE YEARS IN WEST ALABAMA that was printed in the Tuscaloosa Gazette August 12, 1886)
By HON. E. A. POWELL
Recurring to the general aspect of the country:—Fayette county at that day embraced nearly all the territory now included in the county, and all the Southern portion of the county of Lamar. The face of the country is generally broken,—in some places the hills approaching the altitude of mountains.
Most of the county was an excellent range country for cattle.
Plenty of switch cane in winter, and abundance of grass in summer, cattle did well, and several parties laid the foundation of future competence by raising them. As a farming country, it was then, and is to day fully up to, if not a little above, the average. The whole country abounded in game of all kinds.— Deer and Turkey seemed to be inexhaustible, with a good sprinkling of Bear.
Fayette County, Alabama
The smaller game, both as to animals and birds, supplied the people with fresh meats just for the catching. The Panther, Wild-Cat, and Cattamount, put in their appearance with an air that seemed to say, “We live here” One man, on “Hell Creek,” in a period of less than eight years killed eighteen Panther, a number of Bears, and a great many wildcats, etc. But, had liked to have forgotten the Wolf. In almost every part of the county they made night hideous with their howlings. I have heard them break out in the swamp as late as ten o’clock in the morning, and less than half a mile from the house.
Bear, panther and wolf have left
But all this has long since passed away. The bear, the panther and the wolf, has refused to associate with, or live in the same region with the white man. It seems to be a fact that all races of men, and all the wild animals of the country make way for the progressive tramp of the Anglo Saxon.
There was another denizen of the fields and forests that I must not overlook. He was regarded as one of the dangerous pests to men:—I mean the Rattle Snake. They were found in considerable numbers in all parts of West Alabama; some of them grew to enormous size. They were frequently killed measuring five, six, seven, and sometimes as much as eight feet in length. I believe the highest number of Rattles I remember was twenty-eight,—which snake-men tell us indicate the age in years of his snakeship.
Snake ate fawn
I expect the largest one ever seen on the continent, if not on the globe, was killed in Walker county, in the fall of 1854. The story was told to me about as follows:— Two men were out hunting and heard the distressing bleats of a fawn. Supposing it had been caught by a wild-cat, or something of that kind, they hasted to the place, and found the fawn in the coils of a monster rattle snake, which was in the act of swallowing it. One of the men shot the snake through the body, which caused it to disgorge the fawn, and threw himself into a coil of defiance, when the other shot him through the head causing his death through terrible writhings (sic) and contortions.
The men said their first impression was to skin and stuff the monster, but in a very short time they became so sick that both of them vomited profusely, so they came away and left it. One of the men said his head looked about as large as his two fists held together;—that his rattles were about the size of a man’s hand with the thumb taken off. Whatever allowance we may make for the excitement of the men, there is little doubt but that the snake was the largest one of his species ever encountered by man. There are three species or varieties of the rattle snake:—the diamond-back, which is the largest,—the common pided ones, of a smaller size,—and the ground rattle, which is very small. They are all very poisonous, and although the bite, if taken in time, is rarely fatal, still it is asserted by many that no one bitten by one of them ever gets entirely over it.
One or two incidents connected with rattle snakes may be told without breaking the continuity of the story: In the early days of Tuscaloosa county, Dr. T—, of the city, desired to get a rattle snake for the purpose of extracting the oil from his body. He wanted the snake killed without being fretted, and if possible by severing his head. Old Mr. R—, going home pretty high up in whiskey, came across a very large one not far from the present site of Gay’s Mill, and while the snake was lying perfectly quiet, the old man opened his knife, holding it in his right hand, cautiously approached the snake seizing him just behind the head with his left hand, and cut off his head with his right hand. I have this story from the son of the old man. In reputation for veracity the son had no superior.
Thirty-three or thirty-nine snakes in the log
The next will give an idea of the prolificness (sic)of the rattle snake. In 1855, I was going home with a gentleman from one of the public gatherings preceding one of the elections of that year, in the South-eastern part of Tuscaloosa county. Going through a nigh way, we passed a hollow chest-nut log that had been cut from across the road. The gentleman told me that some years before, he was going through that way with his family, going to a Camp Meeting:—that it became necessary to cut that log out of the way:—that when they cut into the hollow they found it contained an old rattle snake of large size with her brood, and it was either thirty-three or thirty-nine snakes they killed from that log. But the rattle snake too, like the Indian, the bear, the panther and the wolf, has given way to the inroads of the white man. It is a very rare occurrence now to find a rattle snake in West Alabama.
A great deal has been said and written about the peculiar traits of the rattle-snake. Some tell us that it is never aggressive, and never bites except it be in defence of itself. I think this is true,-—and I think this is true about most, if not all snakes. There is another idea of the rattle-snake which I don’t think is true,—that is, that it never strikes without giving warning. It is true, that it rarely, if ever, strikes without rattling, but the rattling is the result of throwing itself into coil for striking, and not from any notions of generosity.
(This article has been exactly transcribed with misspelled and grammar mistakes from FIFTY-FIVE YEARS IN WEST ALABAMA that was printed in the Tuscaloosa Gazette August 12, 1886)
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