Last Entry in Ashland Fourth of July Parade Features Live Rattlesnakes

Jun 25, 2014

 As the last entry in the Fourth of July parade in Ashland, Ore., pulled to a stop in the plaza, children would begin shouting, “There he comes, there he comes!” And, sure enough, there would be Bill Johnson in his sawed-off jeep with the bed filled with cages of writhing rattlesnakes.  From the 1940s into the 1970s, Johnson’s snakes marked the end of the parade.

Johnson became interested in rattlesnakes in 1937.  He developed a “catcher-contraption” and soon his hobby became an international business. If a farmer wanted a field cleared of snakes or a hospital needed venom, they called on Johnson. Zoos from as far away as Panama got their rattlers from him. Bill Johnson was an Ashland fixture, but he was more than a snake man. He owned one of the first private airplanes in the Rogue Valley, raced cars and motorcycles and played the bag pipes.  He introduced myrtle trees into Lithia Park, and was a school bus driver who loved taking children on field trips and teaching them about the natural world. Johnson remains best remembered for his rattlesnakes in the July 4th parade.

   Source: Alley, Mary. "Ashland's Snake Man." Ashland Gazette July 1993.