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Bayou Bob Nabbed for Rattlesnake Vodka Elixir

Bayou Bob pops open a handy crate of live snakes.
“Bayou Bob” Popplewell is a clever entrepreneur — we could see that immediately. When we visited him in Santo, Texas one summer, he had a dozen snake-related projects-for-profit going in the gift shop of Bayou Bob’s Brazos River Rattlesnake Ranch. Snake skins hanging from the rafters, snake taxidermy, snake souvenirs for sale, a live snake cam on the web. But we wondered about the trash cans brimming with empty vodka bottles….

According to an Associated Press story (and other news sources), Bayou Bob was arrested this past Monday by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (he turned himself in) on misdemeanor charges of selling alcohol without a license and possessing alcohol with intent to sell. Bob had been allegedly buying cheap vodka, pickling rattlers in it, and selling bottles of it as an “ancient Asian elixir.” Who would buy such a combination? People who may or may not drink it as a sort of Sino-Viagra (perhaps when antler powder is in short supply). The Associated Press reported that authorities confiscated 429 bottles of the magical brew.

Bayou Bob charms a stuffed snake in the background, discarded vodka bottles in foreground.Bayou Bob is back at the ranch (he spent all of 10 minutes in the lockup), and ready to contest the charges. He claims the mixture (a small dead snake in a small bottle of alcohol) is medicinal, not an alcoholic drink. Maybe it’s even bought by Snake Ranch visitors as a souvenir decoration, to be placed on a fireplace mantle, the snake beautifully preserved.

Still, there could be a fine and even prison time for the rancher/attraction owner. The outcome may hinge on the legitimacy of Bob’s claim that it is a healing tonic, though from the perspective of Texas liquor law, vodka was being sold without a license, period. There’s no snake clause, apparently.

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