Eating aligator

We left the highway and headed west until the road ended in a dead end. Before us was 5000 sq miles of everglades. Eager to see birds and alligators the first wildlife we saw were the numerous Harley Davidsons with radios blasting above the motors. Perhaps a new addition since the TV series I’d seen in the early 60’s about the everglades . Your basic police show only it took place in the Everglades with our hero on one of the air boats. I’d wanted to go there since then.

The boats were the same. Perhaps he motors have improved, two 500 HP Cadillac engines,. The boat drifted slowly at first. The pilote pointed out the different plants and and in a rambling southern accent began a history of the marsh. Beginning with the army’s early attempts to drain it only to hit a river below it and raising the water level from 4ft to 20 or 30 feet. They later brought trees from Brazil which drink 4 gallons of water a day but that didn’t work. Now they are removing the trees because they are not natural to the region.
Alligators are creatures of habit and territorial. They like to hang out in the same places and are easy to find. In extreme heat of the late summer they dive to the bottom where they slow their heartbeat to a minimum and stay for ours to cool off. We go looking for them. He guns the motors and we take off at a surprising speed crashing over the lily pads and swamp grass. The boat then swings around and we are gliding sideways first to one side then the other.. Finally we slow down, and drift to a stop. A large ominous creature swims silently towards us barely making a ripple in the water as if he had an appointment,. The guide warns us they can jump but as it settles down right next to the boat it seems docile, peaceful and prehistoric , oddly used to human beings and boats. He contemplates us as we observe him and listen to more stories. Intimidation ripples through the passengers as the guide bends over as if to kiss it on the mouth but the last time he did that there were two undercover game wardens on board and he got n $800 fine. That is the last time he’s kissed an alligator They are allowed to be hunted one weekend a year. You have to pay to be in a lottery then again for the permit if you win. The hunter has two days to capture one. The alligator must be brought in alive; to assure it is big enough and that it came from the designated hunting grounds. They also must be eaten four hours after they are killed or they are no good anymore.
We moved on with more slipping and sliding , skimming over the water and grass at high speeds. Then slowed to to see some birds, vultures, a raccoon and finally a couple of baby alligators maybe a foot and a half long.
We flaoted through the vastness of the marsh and the sky with tropical clouds, piled high in columns. There are fishing camps spread out in the distance and on weekends people head out in boats to visit the camps going from one to one, partying drinking with who ever is around.
They party all day and night in the heart of the vast marsh. A scary thought even for a party animal like me.