Nana and Me

| April 07, 2005

There are still avid hunters who say Nana’s episode is their favorite “Hunting the Country.” Tracy Byrd is one of them.

Owner-operator Monty Hale helps clean up a friend’s back yard in west Texas.

Rods & Barrels


As a boy living in Sweetwater, Texas, Monty Hale was used to rattlesnakes. He started hunting them when he was just 12 years old, and now he teaches people not only how to catch them but how to avoid being bitten by one if they stumble upon it.

“Out there in Sweetwater they were everywhere,” says Hale, 54, an owner-operator leased to Mercer Transportation for the past 15 years. “I guess you got used to them as a kid. Before we’d go out the screen door a lot of times we’d have to push one out of the way so we could get the door open and then kill it. They were pretty much everywhere. It’s prime breeding country for them.”

The Sweetwater Jaycees hold an annual rattlesnake roundup every year in March, and Hale has been part of the event for more than 20 years. While he admits rattlesnake hunting and catching can make parents nervous, it was a “pretty natural thing for a boy around here to do,” says Hale, who hauls oversized loads, driving a 2003 W900 Kenworth with an XL trailer with a removable hydraulic gooseneck hookup.

These days Hale uses his skill from years of rattler hunting to help people all over the country who might run into one in the wild.

“I go to trucking companies and oil companies out in the open country and talk to them and do shows about safety and what to do if someone comes on one. Do the same for schools and organizations like Lions or Kiwanis clubs,” says Hale, who has been bitten seriously “only twice.” He keeps doing shows, he says, because “I may save a life or someone’s arm or leg. These snakes are lethal; I respect them.”

So what do you do if you come face to face with a rattler who is rattling to let you know he’s there?

“Freeze, become a fence post,” says Hale. “Stop dead still. A rattlesnake will only strike at a moving target. You can shout and holler for help all you want – they can’t hear you – but don’t move. He’ll crawl away after a while.”

Off-Duty Destinations
Hot Springs National Park

Because the Great American Trucking Show in Dallas will be a destination for so many drivers next month (Sept. 26-28), here’s a park that’s not too far out of the way and a great place for some soothing R & R.

People have used the waters of the Hot Springs National Park in Hot Springs, Ark., in therapeutic baths for more than 200 years, looking to ease the ache of anything from rheumatism to travel fatigue. Here, 800,000 gallons of hot (147 degrees Fahrenheit) water bubbles freely from the earth each day.

The visitor center is downtown, and you can soak away your tiredness in eight historic thermal bathhouses along famous Bathhouse Row. Try the wonderfully restored Fordyce Bathhouse right there at the center. Or try the Buckstaff Bathhouse, which the Park Service operates in much the same manner as the other bathhouses in their heyday. The Grand Promenade is a landscaped walkway behind Bathhouse Row, and from it you can see the historic and protected springs.

Oh, and there’s a 5,500-acre outdoor park to visit as well. Hot Springs is actually the smallest and oldest of the parks in the National Park System. It was established in 1832, some 40 years before Yellowstone National Park, to protect the 47 naturally flowing thermal springs on the southwestern slope of Hot Springs Mountain.

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