July 18, 2010 by wcobserver
Nomadic Life Beckons
By Susan McCarthy
Local lore tells of a man south of West Fork with a collection of unique reptiles that is missing all of his fingers from poisonous snake bites. Fred and Kathy Lally do possess some eye-popping reptiles including a two-headed rattlesnake. And although Lally has been bitten “quite a few times”, he still has his fingers.
Lally and his wife spend seven or eight months a year on the road with their “Oddity Exhibit” inciting awe from those who pay a dollar to peer through the windows of his carnival trailer to see a collection of two-headed turtles, a two-headed albino black snake and what Lally says is the only known two-headed rattle snake in the United States. He even has a large two-headed albino turtle named, “The Wild Ones.”
“If you stop and think, a lot of stuff like this isn’t around anymore,” Lally said. He says exhibits like theirs are few and far between and often reveal photos of “oddities” rather than live versions.
The Lallys pulled out of West Fork last week with their mobile home and carnival trailer; they will travel to large fairs and carnivals throughout Texas, Louisiana, Minnesota and South Dakota. The Lallys arrange for most of their own bookings and have the marketing angle down to a science.
Lally says he usually appears at a town’s local newspaper office a day or two before a carnival or fair begins. He stops at the receptionist’s desk with one of his two-headed turtles in hand. He said that is enough to “get three guys out of the newsroom.” When there is a break in the excitement, he explains he’s got a two-headed rattlesnake in his traveling trailer and presto, he and his Oddity Exhibit are front page news.
Lally’s fascination with reptiles began as a kid. When he was 13 years old, he spent his days catching fish, turtles and snakes in Louisiana. “Everything had a value, 15 cents to 25 cents per pound…we were kids on bicycles, pedaling fish. A soda pop was a nickel,” he said.
By the late 1960’s Lally began to exhibit reptiles in shopping centers and participating in “Rattlesnake Round-Ups”. “We bought ‘em on Sundays from cowboys,” he said of the men in Sweetwater Texas and Oklahoma who caught rattlesnakes and brought them to the round-up to sell. “The Urban Cowboy movie put me out of buying them. Snakeskin went to $4 per pound overnight,” he said of the 1980 movie starring John Travolta that created a demand for snakeskin boots. Lally said legislation has changed over the years and now prohibits the catching and sale of reptiles; the “Rattlesnake Round-Up” days are over.
For a number of years, Lally said he tried to get “something two-headed” and got his first two-headed reptile in 1995. He said he purchased his two-headed rattlesnake as a baby and it has never bitten him. The snake is long and thick and not too keen on being removed from quiet darkness to have his photo taken. Both heads have tongues that are flitting and his rattler is sending a warning signal.
The two-headed albino black snake sports a pattern that Lally said most people are unaware a black snake has; it is clearly visible in a burnt-orange color and covers the body of the albino snake. Lally explained a two-headed snake comes with two brains and showed off photos of both heads each devouring a mouse.
Lally and his wife were anxious to be out on the road again. They’re normally not home during the summer months, but had swung home to have some repairs made to their exhibit trailer.
The couple’s home is surrounded by bluffs and well-groomed terraced gardens that soon reveal their secret; a house sitter with a passion for gardening.
The Lallys will travel from fair and carnival to carnival, taking in the sights when they can. Lally said his wife Kathy cooks a meal every night when they’re working. And when they have time off, they eat out every night.
After forty years, life on the road beckons. “I do like it; it’s nomadic in a way. A lot of people don’t want to do that,” Lally said.