Rattlesnake Kate was a real legend of the West. Not an imaginary one like Paul Bunyan. Newspaper reporters came from miles to see her.
She became famous after an incident involving her, a no hunting sign, and over 140 rattlesnakes.
As the story goes, in 1925, Kate and her son were on horseback when she dismounted to open a gate. She shot a rattlesnake with her .22, only to have three more appear. She shot those, too. But still more appeared. Not wanting to use up all of her bullets, she grabbed a nearby ‘No Hunting’ sign and proceeded to use it as an axe, removing the heads from snakes. For two hours.
When all was said and done, Kate collected 140 skins, which she turned into a 1920’s style ‘flapper’ dress. She also made shoes, a headband, and necklace. The photo can be seen at the above link to the Greeley History for Kids.
Although there are those who would disputed Kate’s claim to exactly how the story happened, feeling that she certainly did not have to stick around and kill 140 snakes in order for her and her son to safely escape the migration they had encountered, I think it is important to take into account the mentality of the times. Even today, in this up and coming age of enlightenment where people recycle and don’t eat meat, most people would agree a dead snake is better than a live one. Back then, her accomplishment was not just a ‘wow factor,’ it was near heroic.