Dale Ertel, Reptile Wrangler
through the "crooked and steep" roads of the Ozarks
near Berryville, Arkansas, it would have been easy to miss
the intriguing and very colorful hand painted sign on the
side of the road, but Veronica caught a glimpse of it. "Did
that sign say Snake World?" We hit the brakes and
HAD to turn around.
for us, Dale Ertel was standing in the front yard of the dilapidated
dwelling that houses the exhibition. Dale
and his family originally cohabitated with the snakes and he bragged that
his fifteen year old son used to sleep with two cobras on
his headboard. But as the menagerie expanded, new human living
had to be rolled in. He now shares the lot in an adjacent
was more than happy to show us his impressive display
a price. We slipped him a dozen dollars and the two of us advanced
tentatively into the vipers den.
interior looked just as we expected, considering the upkeep
of the outside of the premises -- not a place for the queasy
or the faint of heart. Tidy was not a word that leapt to mind
and the smell was front and center, even on a chilly spring
day. The glass on the displays were too filthy for Snake World
to be considered museum quality and crap was just strewn everywhere.
Little homespun touches like snake skin buntings and a stuffed
turkey adorned the walls.
its favor, the exhibits are intriguing and Dale is so enthusiastic
in his presentation that it was hard not to be taken in. He
sped from one exhibit to the next with a very informative,
yet downhome spiel about each reptile. We had to wonder how
much of it was fact and how much mere folklore.
a 15 foot python that weighs 130 pounds, they get big enough
to eat a donkey, here, look at this picture, this is a local
pygmy rattler, just 15 inches, now hell put you in the
hospital for a few days, but you wont die." Helpful
hill country rhymes like "Red touch yellow - Kill a fellow
- Red touch black - Venom lack" to distinguish the venomous
coral snake from the bite-friendly milk snake are included
at no extra charge.
female African Rock Python was about to lay her turkey egg-sized
eggs, so he explained to us how he used a chicken
process them. He then "sells them for dirt cheap," telling
the buyers "dont feed them too much or youll
have a too big snake on your hands."
to snakes from all over the world, the presentation includes
monitor lizards, snake neck turtles, iguanas and hissing
roaches that he breeds as childrens pets.
of his specimens are local indigenous wildlife he has rescued.
folks are confronted with a cantankerous asp, they call Dale for
snake removal from motels, homes and restaurants (Who
call? Snake Busters!). When asked where he gets his non Arkansas
snakes he informed us that he "horse trades with reptile
people all over the states."
Ertel is just a good ole boy just doin what he loves
to do best. Everyone should be so lucky.