Cary and I have been enjoying a newer show on the History Channel named "Swamp People". It is kind of like "Deadliest Catch" with Captain Phil (before he died) and Captain Sig. Captain Eric used to be on Deadliest Catch, and my BFF Nancy and I thought that he was the cutest captain. Then he quit. I think he is on Allstate commercials now. As usual, I got off on a tangent. This story is about alligators, not about crab and ice storms. We are dealing with hot and humid weather here, and it isn't cold water that makes the job deadly.
"Swamp People" is about several families who hunt alligators during alligator hunting season on the bayous of Louisiana. Of course, they are all unique characters, and most of them are pretty nice folks. They go out in these little boats, bait the alligators, and reel them in. Then, and some of you may not like this part at all, they shoot the alligators in the one vulnerable spot on their forehead that can kill them. After that, they need to haul them into the boat. The head is the main part ... we are told that it is a counterweight, and if you get the head on board, the rest follows easily. The bigger the alligator is the more it is worth, of course. They are sold for meat and hides.
If you haven't seen the show yet, you might want to check it out. For more information about it, here is the link: Swamp People.
Back in 2000, I was invited on a great vacation to New Orleans. One of the things that we did while we were there was to go on an alligator tour. We hopped on a shuttle bus and drove 45 minutes or so to this dirt parking lot with an outhouse. We had kind of envisioned a jet boat, but what we got was a flat-bottomed boat like you would ride on in The Pirates of The Caribbean. This was actually an excellently run guided tour, and I learned so much that day.
Before we boarded the boat, I used the outhouse. When I came out, there was a dead snake on the trail that I had not noticed before I went in. I told our guide, and he was absolutely furious. He asked me if I had killed it. Yeah, right. Then he looked around at everybody else. Of course it wasn't them either; we had all just gotten there and were not the snake killing type of folks. Later he apologized; he explained how everything was necessary around there ... snakes, alligators and everything else.
This was before I was considered a photographer. Before I had a digital camera, where you can take 100 pictures and don't have to pay to get them developed. My 35mm was really rebelling to the humidity on this trip, so many of these are not too clear. But, hey, I was 35 lbs. lighter, so I am not complaining too much.
This guy was our guide. I can't remember his name for sure; I forgot to write it on the back of the pictures. For some reason, Captain Terry pops into my mind, but I could be wrong. Sometimes I am. Anyway, he got out his raw chicken and started drawing the alligators in for us to get a better look. The alligators were not afraid of the boat, because it brought them chicken and cameras on a regular basis; not hooks and shotguns.
Our guide knew all of the alligators hiding spots. Where they entered the water and where the went to sleep during the heat of the day. I think this was one of those spots.
We learned that they look smaller in the water than they really are out of the water.
We learned that they are very territorial.
We learned that the run very, very fast. However, we also learned what to do if you are ever being chased by one. Turn left or right quickly and run the opposite direction. Alligators are great running in a straight line, but do not make sharp turns easily.
We learned the difference between alligators and crocodiles. You never want to mess with a crocodile. Crocodiles are prehistoric, can live in salt water, and have different shape of head than alligators do.
The Captain and my skinnier self, holding a baby alligator. It really wasn't that weird to hold the alligator, though I guess that he could have bitten me. But, he didn't.
I just want to say something about The Captain. He had his biker scarf on, no teeth, scruffy beard and talked in a heavy Cajun accent. Later on, he told us that he was also a biologist who worked for a University, and he dressed this way for us tourists. To complete our authentic bayou alligator experience. That just cracked me up.
I want to go back to New Orleans so bad, and go with my Cary and my digital camera. I hope that we will be able to do that in the near future, somehow.