The beauty pageant each April at the Rattlesnake Roundup in Sweetwater, Texas, requires traditional skills like interview poise, evening-gown fashion and talent, but also some ability and inclination to milk and skin rattlers. High school senior Kyndra Vaught won this year’s Miss Snake Charmer, wearing jeweled boots one night for her country-western ballad, then Kevlar boots and camouflage chaps the next as she took on dozens of rattlers in the wooden snake pit. Vaught expertly held up one serpent, offered its tail-end rattles for a baby to touch, then helped hold, measure, milk and skin a buzzing, slithery serpent. A Los Angeles Times dispatch noted that Vaught hoped to be on her way soon to the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
The continuing crisis
n That there are flea “circuses” is bizarre enough, but in March a cold spell in Germany wiped out an entire troupe of “performing” fleas, requiring the flea whisperer to secure replacements (because, of course, the show must go on). Trainer Robert Birk reached out to a university near Mechernich-Kommern for 50 substitutes, which he apparently worked into the act over one weekend. (Fleas, with or without training, can pull up to 160,000 times their own weight and leap to 100 times their own height.)
n The owner of a restaurant in southern Sweden told authorities in March that the former owner had assured him that “everything had been approved,” apparently including the appliance the restaurant used for mixing salad dressings and sauces — which was a table-model cement mixer. When health officials told the owner that it certainly was not “approved,” he immediately bought another, “rust-free,” mixer. (Health authorities had come to the restaurant on a complaint that a screw had turned up in a customer’s kabob.)
n Chad Pregracke, 38, a Mississippi River legend, spends nine months a year hauling heavy-duty litter out of waterways with his crew of 12. He told CNN in March that he has yanked up 218 washing machines, 19 tractors, four pianos and nearly 1,000 refrigerators — totaling over 3,500 tons of trash — and has collected the world’s largest array of bottles with messages inside (63).
n Eliel Santos fishes the grates of New York City seven days a week, reeling in enough bounty to sustain him for the last eight years, he told the New York Post in April. The “fishing line” Santos, 38, uses is dental floss, with electrician’s tape and Blue-Touch mouse glue — equipment that “he controls with the precision of an archer,” the Post reported. His biggest catch ever was a $1,800 (pawned value) gold and diamond bracelet, but the most popular current items are iPhones, which texting-on-the-move pedestrians apparently have trouble hanging onto.