I’ve Eaten Rattlesnake

One bite of rattlesnake deeply impacted my life.

It was 1977 and my seventh-grade homeroom teacher had served in Vietnam before becoming a Science teacher. Mr. Jewell was enthusiastic and encouraging, and seemed too young to have the few streaks of gray hair that kept some of the junior high girls from obsessing about him. But on the rare occasion when he shared stories about living in the jungle, we learned how he earned his silver.

He made Science fun. It was a challenge considering his pre-teen students were more concerned if they could afford HASH jeans or if they would be asked to slow dance during the first Helena Junior High School dance.

On a September Saturday, he foraged into the Montana wilderness with a friend, a snake pole, and a cage and came back with our new classroom pet. A rattlesnake. The snake lived in the corner of the room where he was constantly watched by kids who absorbed his identity.


We were cool because we had the only teacher with a rattlesnake in his classroom.

Snake was fed various creatures, but usually not during class time.

If you grew up in Montana you watched for rattlesnakes, the original settlers. You observed the sunny rocks while hiking and listened for the rattle noise in the bushes. In the olden days, we were told to cut an X over an accidental  bite to suck the blood and venom and spit it out. We were taught to identify snake head and pattern shapes to know friend or foe.

Mr. Jewell taught us the foe could also be a friend.

After a year of being the cool kids with the rattlesnake in their homeroom, we took one step further into the adventure.

We ate our pet rattlesnake.

This sounds like a scene from Lord of the Flies, but there wasn’t anything ritualistic or sadistic about it. Mr. Jewell cooked it at home and brought in a snake-shaped aluminum foil package to the classroom.

Then the coolest teacher in the world presented a challenge we couldn’t resist. It was our chance to do something unusual. It was our chance to push ourselves to do something we were afraid of.

He encouraged us, “You can brag about this the rest of your life.”

I listened to his urgings and like the majority of the other kids in the homeroom, timidly took a bite. It tasted like chicken.

That summer I moved from my beloved Montana to North Dakota. In trying to impress the flat-landers, on more than one occasion I was able to work into the conversation, “I ate rattlesnake one time.”

In college, when much bragging was done inside and outside of classrooms, I casually mentioned, “Well, I’ve eaten rattlesnake.”

I moved  to the the West Coast and when people share their love for exotic and ethnic foods, I still assert, “I’ve eaten rattlesnake.”

It wasn’t just about the rattlesnake. It was about confidence and conquering. Taking chances. Having no regrets. (I’ve never been offered rattlesnake again.) Overcoming fear. Listening to an adult who knew more than you.

It was a life-changing experience.

Cuz’, you know what?

I’ve eaten rattlesnake.



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106 Responses to I’ve Eaten Rattlesnake

  1. Joanna Pearson March 9, 2013 at 3:04 am #

    You are definitely an entertaining writer! I’m glad you tried rattlesnake. 🙂 A new idea to add to my ideas for my students. 🙂

    • Mindy Peltier March 9, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

      You just have to do a few things that will make your students remember you forever and ever. 🙂 You will never know what you have said or done that will impact their lives forever.

  2. Mindy Peltier March 9, 2013 at 5:21 am #

    Just in case this post made you hungry…..http://angelaharris.hubpages.com/hub/How-to-Prepare-a-Rattlesnake-for-Good-Eating….

  3. Ruby March 9, 2013 at 12:26 pm #

    Well, I must say, this is something I have never tried. We have many poisonous snake “Down Under” but thankfully, no rattlers!

    • Mindy Peltier March 9, 2013 at 4:33 pm #

      What I think it is interesting, as I look back, was that because we were taught by camp personal, park rangers, etc., about rattlers, they didn’t scare me. We just were careful. I do think it was very kind of the Lord to give them the rattles to warn us, though! 🙂

  4. momstheword March 10, 2013 at 1:28 am #

    I have to tell you that reading your post today has left me fairly rattled. I am trying to slowly wrap my mind around it, but I can’t. I can’t swallow it so I think I’ll just have to choke it down. I will try and keep my comments venom free, though, so as not to strike you when you’re not expecting it.

    Seriously though, the only interesting thing I have eaten is calamari, which as you know is squid. That tasted like chicken too.

    I wonder if every man-eating animal thinks that WE taste like chicken? I don’t know about you but I’m not waiting around to find out. I am not brave. I tried to help my son dissect a dead beetle (the insect, NOT the band) once and I ran the other way when the instrument accidentally sent it flying.

    • Mindy Peltier March 10, 2013 at 3:17 pm #

      Sorry to hear my culinary taste has left you rattled. You know, if it’s still bugging you later, make sure you cut that spot with an X, suck out the nasty stuff and spit it out. You’ll feel better, I promise!

  5. Tandis March 10, 2013 at 2:46 am #

    What a great post!!! You are such a creative writer.
    I think this teacher had quite the impact on your life. You are a very similar teacher, it seems to me. You make learning fun and exciting even enchanting.
    I learned something…. to cut and X at the bite site. I have never heard that before. I’ll try to keep it in the back of my mind in case we’re ever in MT and come across a rattler. Thanks. 🙂

  6. The Simple Life of a Country Man's Wife March 11, 2013 at 5:07 pm #

    This reminds me of a time at the fair when people could wrap a huge boa constrictor around their necks to take a picture. My Dad and I bravely did it… felt pretty cool. 🙂 Living in SD we come across our fair share of rattlers, and I think I’ve tried one at the local game feed. Must have tasted like chicken for me, too.

    • Mindy Peltier March 12, 2013 at 4:31 pm #

      Good for you! Can’t believe you could wear a boa boa! Are ya’ gunna’ blog about that? When we went to the Reptile Gardens in SD I was way too creeped out to touch that thing, but some of my kids did. They should have offered me a bite instead…

  7. lexiesnana March 11, 2013 at 5:24 pm #

    Sounds to me by the comments everything tastes like chicken!

    • Mindy Peltier March 11, 2013 at 6:32 pm #

      so true, lexiesnana, but even the bland chicken flavor can’t take away the bragging rights! you should try it…:)

  8. becomingcliche March 11, 2013 at 6:06 pm #

    Love a good snake story. I did cover my ball python’s eyes when we got to the bit about eating snake, though. He can’t blink, so he couldn’t look away.

    • Mindy Peltier March 11, 2013 at 6:14 pm #

      Glad you enjoyed. I’m especially glad you covered your snake’s eyes. I don’t need an enemy that size…

  9. segmation March 11, 2013 at 6:17 pm #

    Hi Mindy,
    It is great to see that teachers can make school and science fun! You will certainly remember this snake story for ever right?

  10. Melanie March 11, 2013 at 7:14 pm #

    The only thing interesting my 7th grade Science teacher did was read aloud the notes we passed back and forth in class. Eating rattlesnake would have been way better than getting called out and embarrassed for talking about Johnny or Susie or whoever the crush of week was for the one caught passing notes. My high school chemistry teacher, however, ran some pretty cool experiments. I guess we all have one who leaves their mark.

    • Mindy Peltier March 11, 2013 at 8:09 pm #

      We never forget those moments of shame when a teacher humiliated us. I will be writing about that soon…. a teacher called me Queen @#$#@#$@. I’m very thankful we all have had those amazing teachers who impressed us with inspiration and knowledge.

  11. L. Palmer March 11, 2013 at 7:45 pm #

    Many of my friends from working at resident summer camp would be jealous of you, both for the pet and the food. I’ve seen several of them wrangle a rattlesnake into a bucket, but I’ve never seen one as a pet.

    • Mindy Peltier March 11, 2013 at 11:12 pm #

      It sure helped me overcome a fear of snakes, understanding how to identify them, how to avoid them and how to eat them!

  12. bradtables March 11, 2013 at 8:22 pm #

    My friend and I ate rattlesnake in about 1974. We were on a hike and almost got bitten by one sitting in a semi dry creek bed. We barbecued it and it wasn’t bad, 😉 We also ate sand shark tails since we seem to catch a lot of them and they were abundant. The things we do when we’re kids…I like your post.

    • Mindy Peltier March 11, 2013 at 11:13 pm #

      “The things we do when we’re kids” made me smile. I still think of myself as a “kid” then remind myself that when you’re approaching 50, you’re not quite a kid anymore. Shark tail, ooh, great adventure. Thanks for sharing!

  13. A. I. Sajib March 11, 2013 at 8:30 pm #

    I am going to bet the dish is not so tasty after all. 😐

    • Mindy Peltier March 12, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

      It tasted more like ADVENTURE than CHICKEN….

  14. bumbalada March 11, 2013 at 8:47 pm #

    I wish I was brave enough to try new things, I did try calamari rings once but that was because I mistook them for onion rings, found that I didn’t like them and also found that I now am very mistrusting of onion rings.
    On a visit to Canada I did try seal sausage and beavers tail… The seal sausage was revolting and the beavers tails were a disappointment as they turned out to be waffles in the shape of beavers tails, a disappointment that rivals turkey dinosaurs.
    Oh and I’ve probably unwittingly tried horse meat too?

    • Mindy Peltier March 11, 2013 at 11:14 pm #

      Thanks for sharing your food adventures. I giggled about the waffles. What a disappointment. Of course, it was probably in the days when you didn’t carry a camera everywhere and blog through life…

  15. Emma in Euroland March 11, 2013 at 9:36 pm #

    I have also tried rattlesnake and agree, it tastes like chicken! It wasn’t at school though. I wish my teachers were this cool!

    • Mindy Peltier March 11, 2013 at 11:16 pm #

      Yep, I had a few gems in those awkward years when I needed them. When my husband was a teacher, he had a piranha in his classroom. I wonder if any of his former students are blogging about him…

  16. lensaddiction March 11, 2013 at 9:39 pm #

    Sounds like he was an awesome teacher, and Im glad you stepped out of your comfort zone and challenged yourself. Bragging rights for life!

    • Mindy Peltier March 11, 2013 at 11:17 pm #

      I think that’s the biggest lesson I learned – how to earn bragging rights. I use this line on daughter when I was coaxing her to ride an elephant at a petting zoo. Pretty sure she’ll be bragging about that someday…

      • lensaddiction March 12, 2013 at 3:05 am #

        Its really important to learn to be yourself and not a member of a herd of sameness. Good for you, wish I could say something similar.

  17. the0n10n March 11, 2013 at 9:40 pm #

    I love teachers who give you a real opportunity to push your boundaries and do something new! I also love trying new foods, everyone should try everything once. Great post, made me smile and reminisce over some great teachers of mine! Thanks 🙂

    • Mindy Peltier March 11, 2013 at 11:18 pm #

      Glad I could make you smile today. Especially on a Monday. That’s quite the compliment, thanks!

  18. aliribs March 12, 2013 at 1:32 am #

    What a bizarre teacher, not necessarily in a bad way

  19. cftc10 March 12, 2013 at 1:36 am #

    Reblogged this on cftc10.

  20. Coach Muller March 12, 2013 at 1:59 am #

    Great post!! Keep up the good work!!

  21. gourmandchic March 12, 2013 at 2:07 am #

    It is common to eat snakes here in Asia but definitely not anywhere else, especially as a kid in a classroom. I give credit to your teacher to open the minds of his students at a young age. And it does taste like chicken. I love eating snake. We also like snake soup here!

    • Mindy Peltier March 12, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

      Thanks for sharing. I hadn’t thought about what other countries would eat. In America we’re very divided over “food.” Some people would give me rattlesnake recipes, others would be horrified.

  22. bdd3 March 12, 2013 at 2:49 am #

    Thank you for sharing a treasured story from your life. Yes, rattlesnake is part of your history as well as having a Vietnam veteran for a homeroom teacher. I had a 7th grade history teacher whose husband was a surgeon. she drove a corvette convertible (new every two years) and her history class was with slides she had taken on trips with her husband. Very cool. I am also a Vietnam veteran but I don’t mess with snakes, sorry, not my macho. Your teacher instilled character in his students and it shows in reading just one post. Again, thank you.

  23. lifeofawillow March 12, 2013 at 5:21 am #

    This is wonderful!

    • Mindy Peltier March 12, 2013 at 4:27 pm #

      Aw, thanks! It was fun to recall a life defining moment.

  24. skrapdiggy March 12, 2013 at 7:02 am #

    There was an annual rattlesnake festival in the county adjacent to the one I went to college in. Intimidating creatures but they do, as you mentioned, taste like chicken. Good read and congrats on being pressed! 🙂

  25. Storm March 12, 2013 at 7:55 am #

    AHHH!!!!!! Eating a pet! I would feel bad. I would have eaten a piece though.

    • Mindy Peltier March 12, 2013 at 4:27 pm #

      I know, right?!?! But, having a rattlesnake for a pet isn’t as bonding as having a dog. It’s not like we could hold him, or scratch him behind the eyes. Not too many other “pets” that I could eat. 🙂

  26. lover March 12, 2013 at 9:34 am #

    haha, well I love the way you write it. but seriously? rattlesnake? cool?!

  27. fileyourstory March 12, 2013 at 10:13 am #

    But why did he cook the rattlesnake? Was it dying or going to die? Or just that he thought it looked yummy so cooked it for breakfast/lunch?

    • Mindy Peltier March 12, 2013 at 4:25 pm #

      Good question. Never really thought about the WHY other than he was trying to give us a life experience we’d never forget.

  28. Roshni March 12, 2013 at 10:40 am #

    Great post. It says exactly what life is all about – taking chances, never regretting. 🙂 You almost make me want to eat rattlesnake! Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed!

    • Mindy Peltier March 12, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

      Thanks for the congrats! I’m excited and encouraged. After 1,000 blog posts, I finally did something right! 🙂 Yep, all into taking chances, especially now that I am…..gulp…..middle-aged. Did I just admit that?

  29. zainulanwari March 12, 2013 at 11:32 am #

    Reblogged this on zainulanwari.

  30. andy1076 March 12, 2013 at 12:49 pm #

    Well there’s a first time for everything I suppose, this definitely qualifies for that 😀

    • Mindy Peltier March 12, 2013 at 8:37 pm #

      Ya’ got that right, first and last. Then I was onto bigger adventures in life…

      • andy1076 March 13, 2013 at 2:33 am #

        Any idea what’s next?? 😀

  31. RagDollsRising March 12, 2013 at 12:54 pm #

    That’s a great story! I am in my 50’s and there are still things my grade school teachers did that stuck with me. The power of a good teacher is huge.

    • Mindy Peltier March 12, 2013 at 4:21 pm #

      So true! Since my first grade teacher scared me and scarred me, I was always thankful for those other amazing teachers that impacted my journey.

  32. Jnana Hodson March 12, 2013 at 1:16 pm #

    I was really hoping you were going to say it DIDN’T taste like chicken. More, say, like turkey or even duck or lobster. Alas, you and several of the comments stuck to the stereotype.
    Still, we have to wonder about the first person to try many of the foods we take for granted … and those who tried things that proved fatal.
    I’m still trying to figure out what that bit of alligator tasted like, a few years back. It wasn’t quite chicken …

    • Mindy Peltier March 12, 2013 at 4:19 pm #

      Brave you to try alligator! When my dad came to visit us last year he was thrilled to try ostrich at a fancy restaurant. I guess we all have a food story to tell…

  33. Melissa (Just Enough Sugar) March 12, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

    I’ve held snakes before, but that’s not as interesting in comparison. What a cool story to tell.

    • Mindy Peltier March 12, 2013 at 4:20 pm #

      OK, Melissa, you are WAY braver than I am. I was only hear the snake when he was in a thick, glass home and when he was dead. And, if you tell the story just right, you can make it interesting…..

  34. SandySays1 March 12, 2013 at 4:12 pm #

    My human is ten days older than dirt so he knew a lot of folks who are multi-generations removed from today’s Florida folk. Rattlesnake was a frequent visitor to the plate for the hardy Crackers who pioneered the Florida wilderness starting in the early 1800’s and continued through depression days (Called “Crawling Steak” then) well into the 1940’s.
    His used to kill and clean them occasionally, but his missus couldn’t even stand to have the carcass in the frig. He tells me they are delicious.

    • Mindy Peltier March 12, 2013 at 4:18 pm #

      I love this story about your human’s family history and the Crawling Steaks. Thanks for sharing, Sandy! Yea, pioneers had to eat what was around. When I moved to the West Coast and people are all uppity about eating animals and snakes and stuff, I realized they’ve never been poor and they don’t have pioneer roots.

  35. museconfuse March 12, 2013 at 5:29 pm #

    Now, I’ve eaten some strange things but you got me there! I’ve never had snake before 🙂 Funny post.

    • Mindy Peltier March 12, 2013 at 8:38 pm #

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Other than crawdad (crayfish) this is the wierdest thing I’ve eaten. I won’t even try sushi!

      • museconfuse March 13, 2013 at 12:42 pm #

        I love crayfish! It’s yummy and sushi too 🙂 haha. But snake is really something else!

  36. Kenneth Mark Hoover March 12, 2013 at 7:05 pm #

    Funny you should mention this. I remember eating rattlesnake at my grandmother’s house one time when I was little. Can’t remember what it tasted like, but I remember the event. 🙂

  37. mydaymatters March 12, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

    Yikes it is kinda like eating a pet. I know it’s not like you can cuddle a rattlesnake but hmmm…definitely interesting.

    • Mindy Peltier March 13, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

      Since I only had about a 1/25th ownership of the snake, it wasn’t QUITE like eating my very own pet, but, yes, hmmmm…..just to give you a little peace, I haven’t eaten a pet since. 🙂

  38. ashleyummymummy March 12, 2013 at 7:46 pm #

    I hope my son one day has a teacher like that 🙂 true gem

    • Mindy Peltier March 12, 2013 at 8:40 pm #

      Yes, I was totally blessed to have Mr. Jewell. Most of my great life lessons were learned that year in his classroom. But, your son does have a true gem of a teacher already, Ashley, YOU! Blessings to you as you raise that sweet little man cub.

  39. Erin McNaughton March 12, 2013 at 11:16 pm #

    I like in Arizona and several restaurants serve it around here–I suppose I have bragging rights to something I didn’t even realize was brag-worthy until you pointed it out. I agree entire that trying something new is about the novelty, the confidence, and the conquering or some fear or new situation.

    • Mindy Peltier March 13, 2013 at 3:36 pm #

      OK, you just made me feel a little bit better about my parents selling their home in Montana and moving to Arizona. I can eat rattlesnake that wasn’t the classroom pet. Yes, Erin, BRAG AWAY!

  40. Soul Walker March 13, 2013 at 4:21 am #

    That really is a good story.

    • Mindy Peltier March 13, 2013 at 3:39 pm #

      Thanks! It was fun to relive a great year with a man who was able to put his horrific experiences overseas aside and pour into his students.

      • Soul Walker March 13, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

        Those two things may very well have been related.

  41. Sidebox & Rowdy Boy March 13, 2013 at 11:43 am #

    We are so often taught little of nothing rather than a little of something useful. Much insight inside this blog article that stands out for this teacher and his love for sharing the insight to better ways of facing challenges of life and fearing less.

    • Mindy Peltier March 13, 2013 at 3:42 pm #

      His insight into many things has followed me through life, probably more than any other teacher I had.

  42. porcelainred March 13, 2013 at 3:22 pm #


    • Mindy Peltier March 13, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

      Thanks for stopping by! I appreciated your word of encouragement. 🙂

  43. sinecostan March 14, 2013 at 4:07 am #

    This is wonderful! When I grow up, I wanna write like you!

    • Mindy Peltier March 14, 2013 at 5:27 am #

      Thank you for the compliment! I am grown up but I don’t feel like a grown-up. Maybe that’s why I keep writing about junior high…

  44. itchy March 15, 2013 at 7:22 am #

    What a great way to introduce kids to push boundaries and try something new ! 🙂 I wonder though, if such ideas would be allowed today in classrooms.

    • Mindy March 15, 2013 at 1:32 pm #

      You know they wouldn’t! 🙂 The 70’s were a different time – no babysitters, helmuts, knee pads, wrist guards, teeth guards or any of those things we’re guilted in to use with our kids today. We ran free, took chances and learned from consequences. You have to find “safe” ways to push boundaries.

  45. jimceastman March 15, 2013 at 8:36 am #

    Thanks for sharing your story. Facing and overcoming your fear through your experience was definitely a life changing experience especially when you have someone whose enthusiastic and encouraging teacher like Mr. Jewel! Great Post! I was entertained so much. Congratulations for being in FP!

    • Mindy March 15, 2013 at 1:28 pm #

      Thanks for the congratulations! One life changing experience led to a blog changing experience…the power of his influence is continuing on…

  46. OyiaBrown March 16, 2013 at 2:57 pm #

    Reblogged this on Oyia Brown.

  47. dare2exist March 16, 2013 at 7:42 pm #

    O gosh this is exactly like lord of the flies! No not really haha but wow seems a bit morbid to eat a class pet :/

  48. Joseph Chaiwhan Kim March 19, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

    Did it taste like Chicken?

  49. lilythedoglover March 20, 2013 at 7:40 pm #

    Wow that’s amazing :). I have never tried rattle snake before. The most interesting thing I’ve ever eaten is octopuss – and that’s not interesting 🙂

  50. 1life196countries March 24, 2013 at 7:14 pm #

    I loved this story…I have a rattlesnake story on my blog as well under the heading British Columbia 1life196countries.wordpress.com

  51. Kodiak My Little Grizzly March 25, 2013 at 2:19 am #

    Well you have one up on me… We had a bull snake in Our class over 9ft long… I hate snakes… And I sure would NOT eat one!

  52. zinniabuzz March 26, 2013 at 11:05 pm #

    I’ve eaten rattlesnake too. I was in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on a winter trip and they served rattlesnake at a restaurant as an appetizer. It did taste like chicken. I’m a vegetarian and I wasn’t quite sure if that would be considered meat, or not?

    • Mindy March 26, 2013 at 11:46 pm #

      I’m smiling as I try to ponder the dilemna is deciding your taste adventure would violate your food preferences. I don’t have an answer, but I applaud your willingness to branch out!

  53. Helene D'Auria August 5, 2017 at 9:19 pm #

    Hi Mindy! I know it’s been a while since you made this post, but I was just telling my son about eating rattlesnake in my 7th grade science class and I thought, I should google Mr. Jewell and see if he’s still around because what a class that was! I think I was just a year behind you – the 1978/1979 school year was my year with him. I laughed so hard when I saw your post come up at the top of my google search. He was truly an amazing teacher. (We didn’t have a class pet snake though. He caught one for us to eat . . .)

    • Mindy Peltier November 30, 2017 at 8:01 am #

      Helene, so fun to have you stop by and share your story. Yes, Mr. Jewell was an amazing teacher that impacted many lives. Isn’t it fun sharing stories of how he impacted our lives? Blessings to you, friend.


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