He’s says it was on his bucket list, but most people don’t have jumping on the back a wild alligator in water over their head on their bucket list. Yet, he did.
Two of my sons, Blake, who was 24 at the time, and Todd, who was 21, were night fishing in a Gulf Coast bayou. They noticed the red glare of eyes near their 15 foot flat bottom boat. The fish weren’t biting, so they started trolling up to and around the glaring eyes that belonged to different sizes of alligators.
Todd, we call him Einstein for short, decided he needed to bare handed catch and release an alligator, but not a ten foot or bigger one, because that would be foolish, right? And not a four foot or smaller one, because that would be too easy. Uh huh, yeah.Ever since they were little boys, Blake has come up with “great ideas” for his younger brothers to try. He started encouraging Todd to jump out of the boat on top of an alligator. Todd had already mentioned his bucket list, so Blake started giving detailed instructions on how and what he should do.
Now understand, it’s not that Blake necessarily knew what he was talking about. Other than watch Turtle Man and Swamp People on TV, at that time he had no first hand experience in wrestling an alligator. Even so, Todd attentively listened as Blake confidently explained step by step exactly what he “needed” to do.
When Todd objected and hesitated at one point, Blake, who usually talks slower with a southern drawl when trying to talk one of his brothers into doing something stupid, nudged him on.
Blake reasoned, “Tooodd, I wooon’t think you’re a coward orrr any less of youuu as a man if youuu deciiide not to jump on one of these little gators”.
That did the trick.
As they trolled in eight feet deep water, they spot lighted an 8 foot alligator lazily floating on top of the water. Blake maneuvered the tin boat directly beside the gator. With an evil little laugh, Blake half said, half whispered, “I think you can take him Todd”.
Todd took a deep breath, and — Commercial Break –
This is a good time to say that you do your best to raise smart, responsible, articulate kids and no matter how hard you try, sometimes it just doesn’t work out. Sometimes it’s like seed growing in stony ground, ya know? Parents can’t live life for their kids and besides, Blake and Todd were full grown, kind of mature, semi-intelligent young men.
If being dropped on their heads as babies, or having some sort of genetic mental defect, or having the thinking skills of Forest Gump happens to affect what they do as grown men, well, you just can’t blame the parent! You know what I’m saying?
I’m perplexed. My palms are open upwards and hands in the air saying I did NOT teach or encourage this with these two, so don’t judge me because I happen to be the father of Abbott and Castello.
— Now back to regularly scheduled programming –
Todd took a deep breath, and jumped, spread eagle style, directly on the back of the alligator.
In all accounts of a rather vague and an ever changing set of facts, it was a direct hit. Todd locked his arms directly under the 8 foot alligator’s front legs and wrapped his legs around the gator’s back legs and tail. Todd’s left ear was conveniently located next to the alligator’s right eye, and most importantly, away from teeth!
The alligator immediately began to thrash, twist and fight to rid itself of the cowboy riding its back.
Todd later said he was immediately surprised how strong the alligator was. Well, (palms open upwards and hands up in the air again), yeah. In fact, with every wrenching and twisting movement of its head, the alligator head butted Todd right in the face. The gator’s tail was swinging wildly between his legs, which, in and of itself, could be a real problem!
But then, the alligator started going under water. Each time the gator surfaced, Todd gasped for air. Even with all of the wild tumultuous thrashing, Todd still had the alligator firmly in his grasp.
In the dark, with water over his head and straddling a wild, half scared, half angry, 8 foot alligator, it was only at this point in time that Todd realized he hadn’t really thought out the part about what to DO with the alligator after he “caught” it in his catch and release venture, and he couldn’t very well ask Blake at the moment.
In the mean time, Blake, from the safety of the boat was shouting big brother encouragement, “You got it Todd!”, “Hang in there Todd!”, and maybe most ironic of all, “Now get him over to the bank, Todd!”
The alligator dove under water again and rolled a couple of times, (commonly called the “death roll”), but Todd knew exactly where he was….right under the boat!
The alligator began a one-two punch on him. Todd’s chin was almost touching the top of the alligator’s head, so each time the gator jerked its bony head up, it hit Todd squarely in the chin, which in turn caused his head to jerk backwards smacking the back of his head on the bottom of the boat!
Blake, hearing the banging under the boat, began to realize that Todd may be in the teensiest bit of trouble, and maybe, maybe just a tad bit of danger.
To give Todd air, Blake flipped on the trolling motor to move the boat off of him.
Houston, we have a problem.
Todd’s foot was right next to the trolling motor. The now spinning trolling propeller wrapped around the ankle of Todd’s blue jeans, and in the turmoil, Todd felt his pants leg tighten and the plastic propeller start whacking his leg.
He thought the gator had bitten him somehow. Holding on for dear life, the gator gave a couple more massive jerks and tugs before it broke free from Todd’s grip. As terrified as Todd was now, the gator was just as scared.
Fortunately, for the good of them both, the gator made a break for freedom and swam away from the night attacker that landed on its back.
Blake was still trying to back the boat up when Todd surfaced behind the boat yelling that his pants leg was caught in the propeller. Blake shut it off and with a little maneuvering, Todd got loose.
Todd half flopped, half climbed back in the boat, but did it rather quickly considering all the splashing and commotion was advertising to all the other gators that there was live bait in the water.
After checking to make sure all body parts were present and accounted for, Todd took inventory. He had a swollen chin, big knot on the back of his head, a few minor scrapes and scratches, ripped pants from the trolling motor and a bruised ankle.
Eventually Blake quit laughing, and in time, Todd’s adrenaline settled down to the point that his mind cleared the thought of, “I lived! I lived! I lived!”
I wish I could say that’s it, but like moths to the fire, a little later the boat steered toward more shallow, three feet deep water, where there were sets of red shining eyes from 3 and 4 foot alligators….
“Youu know, Tooodd”, Blake reasoned, “Youuu really can’t saaay youu’ve wrestled an alligator unless youuu actually catch and release it. And after what youu’ve done tonight, well, I wooon’t think you’re a coward orrr any less of youuu as a man if youuu deciide not to jump on one of these little bitty gators.”
So, Einstein did.