Local business owner featured on Canadian TV

Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Snake World's Dale Ertel, holding a huge albino Burmese python, explains how to handle a large snake to a worried-looking Jason McCoy during the taping of a segment of McCoy's Canadian CMT network show "Jason McCoy Eats America."

CARROLL COUNTY -- Dale Ertel's Snake World, between Berryville and Eureka Springs on Highway 62, is a throwback to the era of roadside attractions. And that's what caught the attention of Jason McCoy, arguably the top country music singer in Canada.

McCoy is big in Canada and he has a show on Canadian Country Music Television. His show is called "Jason McCoy Eats America." It's a show that travels to America, state-by-state, exploring the food, culture and places of interest along the way.

"By the time they called the second time, I knew they were on the up-and-up," Ertel said about the show's call to drop by and visit Snake World on McCoy's swing through Arkansas.

So last November, McCoy and a production crew motored through Carroll County to film a segment of the show at Snake World.

"I think they found me on the internet while looking for roadside attractions," Ertel said. "I think they are looking for them because they are disappearing."

Ertel showed McCoy the various snakes he has in his collection. McCoy, who admits he is like a majority of Americans, was somewhat reticent around the unfamiliar animals. But he soon became at ease, if not a convert, around the snakes and even handled some of the non-poisonous varieties.

The Arkansas show aired on Aug. 2 on the Canadian CMT network and included the segment on Ertel helping a Canadian national celebrity learn to calm some of his fears of snakes.

"I like help change folks' attitude toward snakes... one celebrity at a time," Ertel said with a smile.

At eight-years-old, Ertel was deathly afraid of snakes himself. They were animals that were "out to get you." Everybody knew that and passed it down from parent to child. "Watch out for snakes," they would say. "They'll get you."

Folk knowledge of many things in life is based on common sense and is a valuable resource. But likewise, there are some notions handed down through folk wisdom that are just not correct.

"I like to teach people that snakes are not the evil thing out to hunt you down [and bite you]," Ertel said. "They try to avoid people at all cost, unless you corner them. Venomous snakes probably have five good, full-strength bites before they run dry. So they don't want to bite unless they feel threatened."

But Ertel wasn't always on such convivial terms with poisonous reptiles. As a child growing up on a farm in Kirksville, Mo., he was influenced by the common knowledge that all snakes were out to get people.

"[Then] a guy who was a student at [what was then called] Northeastern State University came several summers to help us put up hay, and he was a snake enthusiast," Ertel said. "He sparked my interest in venomous snakes. In fact, he kept a cobra in his dorm room. He left his door unlocked and his valuables in the same container with the snake. Nobody ever stole anything from his room."

"When I was 10-years-old, we traveled through the southwest one summer and we stopped at [Meteor] Crater National Monument. The park ranger asked me to stay on the trail. 'There are rattlesnakes out there, son', he said. (I replied) 'Yeah, that's why I'm out here,'" Ertel said.

As of now, McCoy's show is not available in the U.S., but the Dale Ertel segment may show up on YouTube at sometime in the future, encouraging others to not be quite so afraid of snakes.

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