Sunday, May 07, 2006

A Face Only A Mother Could Love

Bobby Tiger was in his fifties but still put on a daily "alligator wrestling" show in the alligator pit at the Miccosukee Reservation on the Tamiami Trail west of Miami. I suppose the wild gators can be dangerous, especially the big ones, but this little four footer was just sunning himself on the bank of the Trail canal.

The ones in the village are well fed, mostly on garfish that the Indians gigged (speared) from the bridges. The gar swim lazily just below the surface and aren't all that difficult to get. The well fed gators are also pretty lazy, and seem to tolerate being "wrestled" a couple times a day because they know a tasty garfish is awaiting them. Bobby would get in the pit, an enclosure about 20 ft. square with 4 ft. high walls and a sand bottom. He carried a a 12 foot length of wooden closet pole, and would have to poke and prod an alligator for a few minutes to get him mad enough to rear up on his front legs and start snapping at the pole.

Bobby would then start waving one hand around in circles a few feet above the gator's head. While the gator was looking up Bobby would reach underneath and grab the soft flesh under the throat, pushing upwards. From there it was a simple matter to grab the jaws and hold them shut. The muscles for closing the jaws are strong enough to take your arm off. There's little strength for opening them back up. With the jaws shut he'd stick a leg under one of the gator's legs, twisting the gator's head, and flip him onto his back. Then he'd make a big show of rubbing the gator's belly "to put him to sleep". The reality was that being on his back the blood rushed to his brain and he was already nearly asleep. I got in the pit a few times, taking pictures of Bobby and his sons Robert and Spencer wrestling gators, even doing it once myself with a gator of about 5 or 6 feet.

Robert taught me how to "grunt up a gator" during mating season, making the gutteral grunting sound that they use to attract females. They start coming out of the saw grass swimming towards the airboat. Then you have the problem of getting a rope around them, tying them up, and getting them into the boat when they really have other things on their mind...LOL

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned! Especially two hundred pounds of woman with big teeth.


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