From: Ford, Joe. Haunts to Hookers. McDowell Publication: Utica, KY. 1985
[From the chapter "Snakes: Fact or Fable", p. 80-84]
For many years, a bank in New York was administrator of a trust fund that was to pay $10,000 to the first person to bring in a 'hoop snake'. The money was placed in trust by a Raymond Ditmars during the 1930's. This was a sizeable fortune during that time of national depression. Many people claimed the reward, but none ever received the cash. All failed to meet the stipulations of the trust which stated that the snake must place its tail in its mouth and go rolling along in the presence of reliable witnesses. No snake has ever qualified, but stories of 'Hoop Snakes' persist.
At one time it was common to have a tree suddenly die, and persons would point it out and say that a "hoop snake stung it". Everyone 'knew' that hoop snake venom was located in the tail, and that it was strong enough to kill a tree.
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Some tales concerning the fabled snake were too wild for even the naive souls of a few generations ago to believe. One told of an event in Ohio County, Kentucky, illustrates this. An old farmer was driving his farm wagon along a rutted dirt road. The two horses were straining to pull the load up the hill. At that moment the farmer glanced up the trail, and beheld the dreaded sight of a 'hoop snake' rolling straight toward him. The snake had built up momentum on its downhill roll, and sensing the wagon ahead, it suddenly straightned out its body and flew through the air like a well-tossed spear. The snake's sharp, poison-tipped tail struck the wooden wagon tongue that extended between the two horses. Before the farmer could climb off the wagon and dispatch the reptile with a club, it wrenched free, and placing its tail back in its mouth went rolling off down the hill.
The frightened man hastily unhitched the team from the wagon, and it's fortunate for him that he acted so promptly because the wooden tongue began to swell and swell. It got larger and larger from the effects of the poison. Finally the man called in some of his neighbors, and dragged the swollen wagon tongue to the sawmill. It was cut into planks and timbers, and provided enough wood for the farmer to construct a four-room house.
The man and his wife moved into their new home, and comfortably settled down to enjoy their good fortune. However, nothing pertaining to a snake has a happy ending. One night the couple was getting ready for bed and they heard some strange creaking and popping in the house. They jumped from under the covers, and ran outside. They escaped just in time, because the swelling was going out of the wood, and they would have been crushed to death had they remained inside the house as it shrank back to normal.