Wednesday, February 1, 2023


‘Live Rattlesnakes,’ read the sign by the lonely road. A vanishing America

Chuck Woodbury

I love this photo. I snapped it a long time ago somewhere in New Mexico. It was along a rural highway. Just down the road was the small, tacky souvenir shop with the snakes. The store sold the regular stuff — jackalopes, toy Indian drums, assorted tee-shirts, snow globes, and scorpions preserved for eternity in clear plastic paperweights.

As I recall, there were a couple of glass cages with the live rattlesnakes. It was an utterly unremarkable exhibit. But after driving 150 miles through mostly nothing, it was cheap entertainment and an opportunity to use a bathroom, probably dirty but better than a bush by the road (I was in a car at the time, not my RV with its clean, comfy restroom). Far from the crowds, along a little traveled highway, there were no McDonalds to pause for a meaningless experience with sameness or a McBathroom.

My guess is that today there are perhaps only a third of those old Ma and Pa roadside tourist places. They sell the same stuff as in the old days except today it’s made in China instead of the USA or Japan. Personally, for reasons I cannot explain, I keep acquiring new, but not at all improved, scorpion paperweights. It’s one of my faults.

You very rarely find such low-budget tourist attractions along today’s Interstates. That’s where most of us now travel because we are in a hurry to get from one place to another as fast as possible, and the kids in the back seat are playing video games anyway, so who cares what’s outside in the real world?

I don’t have a profound point to make to sum up. I guess I mostly just wanted to show you the picture.


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