Being bitten by a rattlesnake isn’t a new experience for legendary “Snake Man” Jackie Bibby, but the incident rate gradually seems to be getting worse.
Friday at his home in Rising Star, while loading rattlesnakes into a container to transport them to a snake roundup sponsored by the Jaycees in Brownwood, Bibby was bitten just above his waist on his stomach.
“One got too close and reached out and struck him on the belly, just a few inches above the belly button,” said one of his Hood County friends, Tolar Municipal Judge Paul Hyde.
During Bibby’s snake-handling career, covering a span of about 44 years, the 62-year-old Bibby has now been bitten 12 times by rattlers – an average of one every four years.
Bibby, true to his legend as a tough customer, drove himself to Brownwood Regional Medical Center. He was placed in the intensive care unit, but Hyde said he had been moved to a regular room on Sunday.
When contacted early Monday afternoon, Bibby said he was in the process of being discharged from the hospital.
“I feel pretty rough right now,” said Bibby, who indicated he was unable to stay on the phone longer.
“His belly swelled up real big, and they ran a lot of doses of antivenom through him,” Hyde said. “Friday night was a little scary. He was definitely in a dangerous position Friday evening. The venom itself is working to destroy the tissue.
“I can’t imagine the pain he’s going through. It’s hard to fathom. The way the venom moves through the body and destroys tissue – imagine that being so close to vital organs.”
Despite that, Hyde said Bibby sounded undeterred.
“He tells me he’s got another show this weekend,” Hyde said. “He said he’s going.”
Bibby confirmed he plans to perform at another rattlesnake roundup starting Saturday in Big Spring.
In late February 2012, Bibby was bitten on the back of his left hand during a show in Fort Worth.
Then while performing at a private show in Dallas on Sept. 12, he was bitten on his right leg.
Part of the leg, below the knee, had to be amputated by surgeons at Parkland Hospital in Dallas. Later, more of the leg had to be removed, just above his knee. In early December he was able to start using a prosthetic leg, Hyde said.
Before the incident in Fort Worth just over a year ago, Bibby had averaged being bitten about once every five years.
Bibby, a star of the TV series “Rattlesnake Republic” on the Animal Planet network, set a world record in Granbury last July when he held the tails of 13 rattlers in his mouth at the same time.
Hyde said Bibby’s return to performing with rattlesnakes after the incident that claimed part of his leg was about two weeks ago, in Oglesby.
“I told Jackie when we talked on the phone, ‘You’re just the toughest person I’ve ever met in my life.’ Anybody else suffering a bite like that would have put them down for months. He’s ready to go again,” Hyde said.
Hyde said he has encouraged Bibby to stop doing snake shows, but Bibby always insists he will continue.
Hyde compared him to the late motorcycle stuntman Evel Knievel – another legendary and pioneering daredevil.
“There will never be another Jackie Bibby,” Hyde said. “Everybody coming along after this is just doing things he’s already done. He says, ‘This is what I do. I’m going to keep on doing it.’”
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