Most people try to avoid contact with rattlesnakes. Jackie Bibby, professional snake handler, likes to put them in his mouth.
He’ll be here in Graham to prove it Saturday, May 3, during an early edition of the Graham Trade Days at the old Ag Barn on Highway 67.
Bibby is literally world renowned for his daredevil stunts with rattlesnakes, lightning fast snake handling and, most recently, playing the role of himself on Animal Planet’s “Rattlesnake Republic.”
It all started when the Rising Star resident, who at that point had only touched a rattlesnake once, participated in a rattlesnake roundup in Brownsville at the age of 18.
“A two-man team got in the pit; they handed them a sack with 10 (rattlesnakes in it), dumped the sack out, arranged the snakes, shot the gun and I put them in a bag as fast as I could,” Bibby said. “I was the only non-pro, and I won two trophies. I got my name in the paper, and the rest, as they say, is history because I’ve been doing it ever since.”
Handling poisonous snakes seems to be right up Bibby’s alley — he’s a thrill seeker, he said, and loves all things dangerous.
“I’ve been a skydiver, airplane diver, (gone) scuba diving, (drove) motorcycles, (gone) bull riding,” he said. “One of my quotes, which is seen on the internet, is ‘You’re never more alive than when you’re near death.’”
During his first 15 years of rattlesnake handling and roundups, Bibby could bag 10 snakes in a record-breaking 17.11 seconds.
He submitted these records to the Guinness Book of World Records, which, at the time, wasn’t interested. But when Guinness decided to create the television show, “Guiness Book of World Records: Primetime,” in 1998, they contacted Bibby.
“They were nice, but wouldn’t put me in the book — as soon as they wanted me on the TV show, then I’m their hero,” he said with a laugh. “We started talking about what we could do (for the show). I’ll do nearly anything — I’m an egomaniac with an inferiority complex, so I like being looked at. They made a clear bathtub, so I (got in it) with 35 snakes. I did it a couple times for Guinness.”
Bibby definitely made Guinness’ records then. He has sat on top of and has been covered in a jaw-dropping 195 snakes in a tub.
To date, he has set five world records in the Guinness Book.
Bibby’s interest in rattlesnakes has taken him places and provided experiences he will never forget. He’s been to Europe 14 times, and has been on television more than 100 times.
“The first big (show) I ever did was the Chevy Chase Show on Fox,” Bibby said. “I was on his show with Jamie Lee Curtis, and I taught him how to milk a rattlesnake. Jamie Lee Curtis said I was a wacko. I’ve been on Steve Harvey’s Big Time Challenge twice, Ricki Lake, Maury Povich and Sally Jesse Raphael.”
Bibby has also made appearances on the Ripley’s Believe It or Not show and the Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
“I had a blast on (Leno) with Ricky Schroeder and Charlotte Church,” Bibby said. “Of course, Leno is amazing. He kept saying, ‘I’m going come to Texas and barbecue with you.’”
Bibby’s first experience holding a rattlesnake in his mouth was on the Maury Povich show.
Read more in Sunday's Graham Leader.
Graham Trade Days
Saturday, May 3, Old Ag Barn
• Shows start at 11 a.m. and last 30-45 minutes, with 30-45 minute breaks in between performances
• Bibby will entertain the audience by putting rattlesnakes on his face and body, and holding them in his mouth
• Bibby will encourage audience participation
• Tickets cost $10 for adults, $5 for kids, free for kids 5 and under