RISING STAR, Texas – Rattlesnake Republic on Animal Planet features daredevil snake-charmer, Jackie Bibby, a Texas native who recently found life-saving help from a Oklahoma prosthetics company, Scott Sabolich.
News Channel 4’s Ali Meyer traveled to the heart of Texas to meet Bibby and learn more about the trade that took his right leg.
Rising Star only has about 835 residents.
It is a sleepy one-horse town, hardly the spot you’d expect to give rise to a thrill-seeking reality TV star.
Bibby is a regular at the Rising Star Senior Center, where he comes for the food and the attention; a real local celebrity.
Bibby and his father, 83-year-old Arley Bibby, live just outside of town.
“I raised him and I raised him crazy,” Arley Bibby said. “I guess that’s just one of them things.”
Bibby currently holds five world records in snake handling.
He once held 13 poisonous rattlesnakes in his mouth.
Bibby has graced the pages of Newsweek and Playboy.
He’s been in The Guinness Book of World Records nine times since 1999.
“One time when we were out in California, we were filming this segment for Guinness Prime Time, and they were putting snakes on me,” Bibby said. “At that time my record was 83 or 84 and two snakes got in a fight on my lap. They were in my lap biting each other but they never bit me!”
One bite from a Western Diamondback Rattlesnake delivers enough venom to kill a man.
Bibby has been on the receiving end of those poisonous fangs 12 times.
“I think most people get it,” he said. “You know, it doesn’t take too much snap to know, ‘Oh, here comes the snake man. He’s in a hearse.’ The next bite may be the one that kills me and I won’t be in the front seat, I’ll be in the back.”
After all, this is a man who simply cannot resist the hum of a rattle.
It was bite number 11 that almost did him in.
“I was stunned, Bibby said. “This being my eleventh rattlesnake bite. I told the doctor, ‘Surely you’ve got to be kidding me. I’ve been bitten by rattlesnakes lots of times. You don’t mean I might lose my leg?'”
Last September, a six-foot rattlesnake struck just above his boot.
By the time Bibby got to the hospital, the tissue in his lower leg was gone.
Bibby told the doctor, “I can’t believe I’m going to lose a leg over this rattlesnake bite.”
Ten surgeries in three days and doctors had no choice but to take Bibby’s leg above the knee.
In recovery, Jackie Bibby made a friend in Oklahoma.
“I would not have the quality of leg I have today, with my ways and means, were it not for Scott Sabolich,” Bibby said. “They’ve done a lot for me. It’s just a god thing.”
Oklahoma prosthetist Scott Sabolich knew about Jackie Bibby long before they met in person.
“I don’t like snakes at all and he brought one into our office,” Sabolich said.
The team at Sabolich went to work on a leg for the reality star, snake hunter.
“That’s his passion, his love, his life,” Sabolich said. “That’s what we do. We get people back into their life. He was able to step right back in flawlessly. I was amazed.”
Bibby learned to walk twice as fast as the average amputee.
“You can see I don’t live in a mansion,” Bibby said. “I don’t drive no fancy automobile. I drive a hearse and a van and I live in an old farm house. But I really challenge you to find someone who’s enjoying life more than I am. I have one leg off and I’m bald-headed. But I tell you what, I’m having a pretty good time.”
Thankfully for the rest of us, Jackie Bibby doesn’t mind inviting viewers along for the ride.
In fact, he prefers an audience.