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As It Was: Rattlesnake Pete Becomes Spirit of the West

Miles Henry Jackson earned the nickname “Rattlesnake Pete” when he walked to Klamath Falls from Portland after serving with the Canadian military in World War I.  A rattlesnake headband circled his western style hat, complemented by a buckskin jacket and pistols.

He wanted to be a character and wore several outfits, sometimes as a trapper, and other times as a Pony Express rider.  Someone called him “the Old West in living color.”

Rattlesnake Pete fired pistols to startle tourists, participated in many parades, and welcomed illustrious visitors to town, including Johnny Cash.

On festive occasions, Rattlesnake Pete was the face of Klamath Falls -- white beard, mustache, guns, Western garb, and all.  Despite his appearance, he was described as “gentle and congenial,” and his pistols only fired blanks.

Born in Ontario, Canada, in 1873, he moved with his family to North Dakota as a tot.  He died in March 1966 at age 93.  His Klamath Falls Herald and News obituary of March 27, 1966, described him as “familiar to many, but known to few.”

Sources: “‘Rattlesnake Pete’ Dies To End Legend.” Klamath Falls Herald and News, March 27, 1966, Page 1; Malcom Epley, Jr., “Old Timer, Rattlesnake Pete, Adds Gay Color To Klamath Falls Scene,” March 30, 1951.

Pat Bushey wrapped up a 53-year professional, small-town newspaper career in 2018, after 47 years at the Klamath Falls Herald and News — 17 as managing editor. He also worked at the Tri-City (Wash.) Herald and the Walla Walla (Wash.) Union-Bulletin, where he spent a summer filling in as sports editor. Before that, he was sports editor at Everett (Wash.) High School and Washington State University. Bushey wrote many of the Herald and News editorials during his tenure, and almost all of those appearing in recent years.