Bill Haast figured he had handled more than three million poisonous snakes over the years, and he had the hands to prove it.
An eastern diamondback rattlesnake left one hand looking like a claw. A Malayan pit viper mangled an index finger. A cottonmouth bit a finger, which instantly turned black, prompting his wife to snip off the fingertip with garden clippers.
Mr. Haast was bitten at least 173 times by poisonous snakes, about 20 times almost fatally. It was all in a day’s work for probably the best-known snake handler in the country, a scientist-cum-showman who made enough money from milking toxic goo from slithery serpents to buy a cherry-red Rolls-Royce convertible.
For all the time he spent with snakes, Mr. Haast harbored no illusions that they liked him.
“You could have a snake for 30 years and the second you leave his cage door cracked, he’s gone,” he told Outside magazine in 1997. “And they’ll never come to you unless you’re holding a mouse in your teeth.”
Saturday, June 18, 2011
Bill Haast; the death of a true legend
Douglas Martin has crafted a masterful tribute to the legendary Bill Haast in today's New York Times.
-from the Miami Daily News, April 10, 1949
-from the Miami News, Aug. 30, 1984
Posted by Bill at Saturday, June 18, 2011