“ … There is the theme of the amazing passion, vision, perseverance, and guts of various individuals who were determined to make wine as good as Europe and to turn Washington’s desolate sagebrush into world-class vineyards: Pretty brave and visionary.” – Historian, Department Chair and Wine Enthusiast Marji Morgan
My boss Marji made a mistake in her Sagebrush to Vineyards: Washington’s Route to the World Wine Map Central Washington University College of Arts and Humanities lecture that a few biology students noted.
She marveled out loud how Washington’s early winemakers had the vision thing to see past the desolate sagebrush landscape, infested with rattlesnakes. They cleared out the brush, exiled the rattlers and planted vitis vinifera grapes for a wide variety of varietals, all in the name of progress and good wine.
These budding scientists may be environmentally correct in standing up for desert ecosystems and slithery reptiles, but very few are going to join them in jumping to the defense of rattlesnakes. Most would jump away from these lethal vipers.
Almost DailyBrett identifies a core presentation problem that comes with fangs, scales, pissed-off personalities and poison. All of these characteristics may work for American politics, but rattlesnakes will never be considered warm and fuzzy.
The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) has even suggested on its website that donors “symbolically adopt” rattlers. They’re serious.
Scientists have identified 36 separate species of these vipers, ranging from Alberta to Argentina, 13 of which reside in Arizona. Doesn’t sound like rattlesnakes are going extinct anytime soon. Reportedly they take out their aggressions on rats (another species with bad PR), birds and other small critters, which provides rattlers with their raison d’être.
Sea otters, deer, horses, seals, dolphins, puppies and kittens – mostly furry and/or cute — have much better public relations. Schlanges have issues that go back to the Book of Genesis. Back then, the serpent served as the first consultant in the Garden of Eden, and it has been downhill for business consultants ever since.
Swallows in Capistrano; Rattlers in Sweetwater
“The sound of rattling at these roundups is in fact a thousand snakes screaming.” — Melissa Amarello, cofounder of the Tucson-based Advocates for Snake Preservation.
Looking for something to do right around St. Patrick’s Day?
Every second weekend in March, the Sweetwater Jaycees hold the world’s largest rattlesnake roundup (not sure many towns want to beat them for this distinction) including a carnival, guided tours, a dance (tango with a rattler?) and the Miss Snake Charmer contest.
About 25,000 folks descend of Sweetwater to observe the netting of 3,780 pounds of snakes. Miss Texas even took her turn standing in the middle of what appears to be an above-ground swimming pool filled with rattlers, instead of water. Want to dive right in?
Almost DailyBrett usually comes down on the side of critters, not engaging in hunting (let’s give the Elk guns too, just to make it fair). Heading to Spain this summer with its bull fighting culture, which to this author seems like a waste of bovine testosterone. Sea World has its issues with killer whales. And Almost DailyBrett vividly remembers the “Coyote People” descending en masse on the Glendale, California City Council after an offending coyote killed a little girl.
Guess which side the “Coyote People” took?
If one was searching for an international public relations firm to take on rattlesnakes as a client, Burson-Marsteller may be a solid choice. Burson has represented Philip Morris (now Altria) for decades and made no apologies. According to the CDC, cigarettes kill 400,000 Americans each year. Only six Americans succumb to rattler bites each year.
Sounds like an easy client for Burson-Marsteller with favorable third-parties (e.g., The National Wildlife Federation) to call upon. You can just imagine the PowerPoint presentation. Maybe, Burson-Marsteller can convince WME/IMG to hold the Miss Universe contest next year in Sweetwater, Texas to coincide with the rattlesnake roundup … or maybe not?
Back to Marji Morgan, all she was doing was delivering an overall well-received address about the history and future of wonderful Washington wines. Simple until the ecologically correct spoke up.
Instead of sipping varietals, she figuratively stepped on a rattlesnake hiding in desolate sagebrush.