[From JC Johnson's wall on Facebook, reprinted with permission]
Among the ruins was a vibrant 15-foot long, green, clay painting of a feathered serpent. The find was rather astounding because wall paintings, especially those of discernible figures, are actually fairly rare in the Southwest.
The painting was of Avanyu, a serpent deity believed in by many Amerindians of New Mexico, but more specifically those at Pecos Pueblo in Northern New Mexico. There, in the mountains, was said to be a rattlesnake of giant proportions, so large it could easily swallow a man. According to legend it was kept in the cave by a fire that burned at all times. Eventually the snake got away, and was said to have slithered off into the Pecos River. Stories of a giant rattlesnake living in a mountain cave (which also included a tribe of Indians called the Snake People) were also very prominent in the Guadalupe Mountains, in lower southeastern New Mexico in Eddy County. There the Mescalero Apaches told of sheep mysteriously disappearing, while other sheep found dead had so much rattlesnake venom in their system that their insides were nearly dissolved.
Another account goes that two anthropologist investigating tales of the Snake People back in the 1940s went exploring in the cave where the mysterious tribe supposedly still practiced. The two men were lowered into the cave via ropes operated by several ranchers and cowhands. The men above heard a great deal of screaming coming from below, as well as loud buzzing rattles, and tried to pull the men back up. Only one of the men was pulled back out that day, he was dead and had an extremely high amount of rattlesnake venom in his system. The story ends weeks later when the government sealed up the entrance to the cave with several tons of rock. Two weeks later a new entrance was clearly visible, with the appearance that something pushed its way out from the cave.
In Roswell there are no tales of snakes as large as that talked about at Pecos Pueblo or the Guadalupe Mountains, but area farmers such as the Berry Farm near Dexter claim to have killed rattlesnakes easily as big as a large man’s thigh. A snake sighting at Bottomless Lakes also described a snake so large that it stretched a full 12 feet or more across the road.
In 2002 a Roswell man was driving north of town on the truck bypass and crossing the Berrendo Bridge when he saw what he believed to be a large tree limb in the road. Swerving to avoid it he saw that it was actually a very large snake. He said as he drove by it reared up six feet off the ground, and he estimated its overall length to be that of 12 feet. He also described it as being a yellowish brown color to the best of his recollection. When asked whether he thought it could be a python or escaped circus animal he laughed and said it looked more like a, “really big Whip Snake,” a common local variety.
In yet other, “friend of a friend,” secondhand accounts popular in the area, there was said to have been a gigantic snake killed by some ranchers in the southern outskirts of Roswell. According to the story the ranchers found a mysterious hole that had opened up from the ground. Out of it came a gigantic snake, also said to have hair on some parts of its body like a Chinese dragon. The ranchers managed to kill it after repeated gunshots.
Believe it or not, bearded snakes like the one rumored above appear in other modern urban legends across the world. The concept of a hole mysteriously opening in the ground, followed by a reptilian monster emerging from it, has also been popular through the ages.
On July 12, 1960, the Roswell Daily Record proclaimed , “A 300-Pound Rattler,” complete with a picture on the front page of two men, Juan Baca and Mike Gonzales, holding up the massive 18-foot long skin of the snake. According to the two Lincoln County men, they had comes across the huge diamondback rattlesnake in the Valley of Fires lava beds west of Carrizozo while looking for their burros. Gonzales spied the telephone pole-sized snake resting on a dry lakebed.
“The ground seemed to be going up and down. It was the snake breathing,” said Gonzales in the Ruidoso News. The two men began taking shots at the snake, which reared its head up “five feet off of the ground” while none of the bullets seemed to penetrate the skin. According to Baca and Gonzales, eventually some of the bullets pierced the snake’s scales and it finally began to enter its death throes.
After it was determined to be dead, Baca and Gonzales skinned it, reasoning it would have taken several horses to tow the carcass. For several days, talk of the giant snake was rampant in Lincoln and Chaves Counties and a curator in El Paso offered $100 for any snake killed in New Mexico over eight feet long.
Not surprisingly, the story was eventually revealed as a hoax. In reality a rattler more than 8 feet is quite a rarity, let alone 18 feet. The two men had actually found the skin, shed by a python or boa constrictor, through a trash man who himself had found it in a dumpster in Ruidoso. They traded the trash man 10 chickens for it, hoping to sell it for considerably more. Gonzales and Baca eventually apologized to the Ruidoso News editor, Vic Lamb, who was instrumental in ferreting out the hoax, and the story was over.
It’s worthwhile to note that the, “bearded snake,” of monstrous proportions mentioned earlier was inspired by the story of the two Lincoln County men, only greatly exaggerated over the years.
One account of an adventurer battling oversized rattlesnakes that is true is found in the papers of Roswell optometrist Dr. L. B.Boellner. Dr. Boellner was a recognized horticulturist known for his Kwik-Krop Black Walnut and scented dahlia and lived and practiced in Roswell from 1904 until 1951.
In May of 1931, Dr. Boellner went on a hunting trip with a female friend, Annie Lou Moore. Both took .22 rifles to go and hunt rabbits. Had Dr. Boellner known what he was to come face-to-face with he would’ve taken a shotgun. Their hunting excursion was on Six Mile Hill, a vast wasteland west of Roswell full of jagged rocks and dry sinkholes. Upon entering the area the two bagged several rabbits, but both felt the young rabbits where not anywhere near as plentiful as they should have been in the spring. The two began to wander amongst the land in the area and split up. Dr. Boellner wished to give one of the larger sinkholes personal explorations as not many people ever went down in one. He would soon find out why.
This particular sinkhole he described as being 50 feet across. He climbed down inside it and wrote that it was 50 feet at its deepest and eight at its most shallow. It was also outlined with various cracks and crevices, not to mention the bones of many, many rabbits. It didn’t take long before Dr. Boellner saw the first rattler coming at him. The tale is more interesting in his own words:
“I had only one thing to do, and that was to shoot him without delay. My first shot struck him about three inches back of the head and stunned him. Just at this time, out came another of equal size with open mouth and tongue out. He too, was coming straight for me and only about two feet behind the first one. I shot the second one about a foot back from the head. Both of these snakes were only crippled. I knew I had to do what I was going to do quickly, so I gave both snakes bullets as fast as I could to stop their approach.”
Boellner continues with the appearance of a third snake which he shot and apparently blinded, as it struck out with its fangs aimlessly before eventually falling into a cavity in the ground out of sight. With the third snake out of the way, Boellner focused his attention on the other two, which he spent his entire chamber of ammunition on.
At this point the dead snakes were stopped no less than three feet away from him. By this time his female friend came to his aid and he climbed up out of the chamber. Dr. Boellner gives no precise length for the snakes but writes, “All of these rattlers were of huge size; one had 22 rattles and the other 20. The snakes were the size of a man’s arm at the shoulder.”
Perhaps then it is no wonder that Indian paintings of Avanyu were found near Roswell. Unfortunately, the NM Highway Department that found the Jornada Mogollon village did not feel it was significant enough to preserve and paved the road over it. Lynn Michelson, author of “Roswell: Your Travel Guide to the ET Capital of the World,” remembers going to one of the tours with her children.
“I remember the serpent being a subdued green, not bright, but definitely green. The serpent was the Avanyu, a fairly benign spirit of springs and streams that Pueblo potters, especially from Santa Clara and San Ildefonso, put on their pottery. It supposedly evolved as the religion spread north from Quetzalcoatl or Kukulcan, who was a rather scary and demanding figure,” said Michelson. “Building the kiva and painting the serpent must have been a substantial undertaking. I imagine it was an important place for the people who lived there, and maybe for those all around,” she concludes.
The in the area is the Western diamondback. Officially it only grows up to about eight feet long but "Unofficially" there are statements which run up to fourteen feet long! At one time in the past I repeated this figure thinking it was "Official" only to have my sources questioned (in regards to a forced-perspective photo posted on the CFZ blog last year). Fourteen feet long is admittedly much too long for a Western Diamondback, but it is about the accepted maximum length for another snake that lives further South: the Bushmaster, Lachesis muta
There is also a related but distinct species that lives in Central America, the Mayan lands. It is not a rattlesnake and does not have rattles, but it does have a horny spike at the end of the tail which it vibrates in the manner of a rattlesnake, and it makes a noise with the rustling of dry leaves on the forest floor. Doubtless this horny end to the tail was what Dr Boellner was describing as the "Rattles" of enormous rattlesnakes, with some exaggeration; any truth to the story at all. So hypothetically we have snake cultists from the Mayan countries bringing their sacred snakes up to West Texas, probably as fertile snake eggs since the Bushmasters lay eggs and the eggs can lie dormant for a long time. fertility figure are asociated with laying lots of eggs, BTW, and the Bushmaster is the only pit viper that lays eggs. The Bushmaster also produces excessively large amounts of venom, and the stories are that the venom is nearly always fatal in the field (Stressed captive snakes do not live up to expectations about the venom, but then the problem is that they are stressed captive snakes milked regularly for their venom. Commentators have noted that this is not a natural situation that you can judge by)
Since we have the cultists of The Snake God bringing up their sacred snakes in secret places of the North, and maintaining them by feeding them sacrifices on ritual occasions, it sounds exactly like the Conan the stories. In this case, it might actually have happened, and some of the last remaining descendants of those sacred snakes are being seen by modern witnesses. Perhaps.
|The Bushmaster is also a diamondback, after a fashion|
|Range of the Bushmaster-another Bushmaster species|
inhabits Central America further to the North of this range