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The Ancestral Boots
An old Texas rancher was rounding up stray cattle when a
rattlesnake reared up and bit him through his boot. He
had nothing he could use to treat himself, so he applied
a tourniquet, climbed on his horse and headed for home.
Through the kitchen window, the rancher's wife saw him
coming. Even from a distance he looked strange. His head
was bowed and the reins were slack in his hands. A few
minutes later, the horse and rider arrived in the front
yard, but the old rancher did not climb down off his
horse. When his wife and the hired hands got to him,
they found that he was dead in the saddle.
"Imagine him having a heart attack and not even falling
off his horse," said the rancher's son.
The morning after the funeral, as the son was getting
dressed, his mother came into his room. "These are
Daddy's boots," she said. "I thought maybe you'd like to
The son took them and put them on his feet. They pinched
a little, but he didn't say anything about it to his
mother. He didn't want to hurt her feelings. Besides,
they'd probably stretch after he'd worn them for a
couple of days.
At the end of the day, the son came riding into the yard
of the ranch, slumped over his horse. Like his father,
it appeared that he had had a massive heart attack out
on the range.
The morning after the son's funeral, the old rancher's
wife came into her eldest grandson's room. Her face was
pale and drawn. "Your Grandpa wore these boots for
twenty years," she told the young man. "Your Daddy only
got a chance to wear them for one day. Do you want
The grandson said yes, and put them on. The boots were
too tight, but he couldn't complain about it to his
grandmother after all she'd been through.
At the end of the day, the grandson came riding into the
yard of the ranch, slumped over his horse, as dead as
his father and his grandfather.
A few days later, the grandmother called her youngest
grandson to her. On the floor beside her were the boots.
She was weeping. "Your Grandpa always said these boots
were good luck. I'm beginning to think they've cursed
us. Take them out and burn them for me."
The boy picked up the boots, and as he did, he saw
something sticking out just above the heel. He carried
the boots out to the tool shed, took a pair of pliers
and pulled at the object embedded in the boot. He
expected it to be a thorn. Instead, out came a
rattlesnake fang still filled with venom.
Variation: In a modern version of this story a rancher
runs over a rattlesnake with his truck. Some of the
snake's fangs are embedded in one of the tires, so the
rancher drives to his mechanic's shop to have them
pulled. The careless mechanic is scratched by the fangs