Snuggly snakes and cowboy camping

Some comedian recently struck a note with folks my age when he commented, “I really thought as a kid that quicksand would be a bigger problem in the world than it is.”

It seems like back in my day, every other superhero or western TV series eventually got around to having a protagonist trapped in quicksand and barely escaping.


Another trope that has really stuck with me – probably even more than the quicksand thing – is the idea that if you go cowboy camping (that is, if you sleep in the open without a tent) then snakes will snuggle up with you in your sleeping bag to stay warm.  I’m sure this idea came from The Rifleman S6E19 And the Devil Make Five (Literally the only episode of that show that I ever remember seeing).

But to me, sleeping on the ground seems like a phylogenetically common thing for humans as a species to do.  We’ve probably been sleeping on the ground outside for many, many years before cowboys even existed – but you only hear of this fear of snuggly snakes since that Rifleman episode in the early 1960’s.

Another way of thinking about this risk – about 30,000 Boy Scouts earn the Wilderness Survival merit badge each year, in which the Scout is required to “Improvise a natural shelter,” which basically means cowboy camping under a lean-to.  And to my knowledge, no Scout has ever had a snake snuggle up to him in the night.

My gut feeling is that this idea of snuggly snakes is totally myth – you can very probably go Cowboy camping without much fear of a snakey awakening.


Categories: Camping, Survival