Joe Banyard, rattlesnake hunter

Vikings running back Joe Banyard is on the roster bubble, but he's been in more precarious positions in life, like when he's catching rattlesnakes. The activity is part of the fabric of his hometown.

Joe Banyard is hoping to avoid the sting of "The Turk" next week, but there is another bite he has been able to avoid longer in life.

Banyard is an avid hunter … of rattlesnakes. The venom has never gotten into his bloodstream, but the lure of the pastime sure has.

"We're a small town (less than 12,000). We're pretty known for windmills and rattlesnakes. That's all we do," Banyard said.

The Vikings running back, hoping to make the team when final roster cuts are announced next week in two stages, is from Sweetwater, Texas and grew up with his town's annual Rattlesnake Roundup.

"That's what we're known for. It's the world's largest rattlesnake roundup and what we do is once a year for about three days we'll gather up as many rattlesnakes as possible," he said. "We'll get a big old pit in our coliseum and throw them in the pit and we'll auction them off for their skins, their meat, rattlers. Whatever you want, we'll get it for you."

The annual festival is held in March every year and is part of the television show "Rattlesnake Republic."

"You literally go out to the fields, you pick them up or bag them up – you put them in the bin or whatever you want," Banyard said. "You keep them alive because you're not sure what the customer wants off of the rattlesnake."

Banyard is trying to get all of the Viking running backs and his position coach, James Saxon, to join him for the Rattlesnake Roundup next year. He was having a difficult time convincing Adrian Peterson, another Texas native, to join him, but Peterson hasn't given as emphatic a "no" as Saxon.

Although Banyard has never been bitten by the poisonous snakes, saying he has been "lucky," he has a friend that is more frequently involved that has suffered multiple bites, and Banyard said people get bit "all the time."

"I have a buddy that does it quite frequently. He's gotten bit a couple of times. Lost a couple of fingers. It's serious business," he said. "We have a guy that he'll go in and he'll do a talent show every year. For instance, one year he'll put a certain amount of rattlesnakes in a sleeping bag and he'll go in the sleeping bag head first just to see the amount of time he can spend in there without getting bit. We've got some guys that are pretty crazy.

"I wouldn't do that. It's crazy enough that I'm going to get rattlesnakes, but I wouldn't go that far. I like to live while I can."

And therein lies a logical reason that Peterson would hesitate to partake, although Banyard say he thinks he has Peterson talked into it.

People typically go out in groups of four or five and "on a good day" catch 20 to 25 a day, Banyard said.

And, although Sweetwater is a "little small country town," the Rattlesnake Roundup attracts an international fare.

"We have people from Russia, Canada," Banyard said. "It's known. … We're a little small country town. That's what we do."

Tim Yotter is the publisher of Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.

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