Given the news yesterday of a Southeast Louisiana child having his arm bitten off by an alligator, timing of this topic is really awkward , but I resolved a week ago, when I related this tale to an NWP colleague at our retreat in Nebraska, that this was one of those tales worth preserving for posterity. So I relate my personal experience here.

Some years ago (more than I care to remember, back to the mid-1980’s), I worked in the oil field as a mud engineer. One assignment placed me from week to week on an inland barge drilling for oil and gas in the Rockefeller Game Refuge in coastal Cameron Parish, Louisiana. The crew boat captains that transported us from the dock to the rig were required by law to slow down to idle in the canals to minimize propeller wounds to the populous ‘gators in the habitat.

So alligators were common.

They were common around the rig location, too. And accordingly, for larks each evening after supper, a group of us would take a five-gallon plastic bucket to the galley where we’d gather the left-over biscuits and other scraps from supper. Down to a supply barge tied to the rig we’d descend, and a flock of ‘gators swarmed to the barge as soon as they saw us. We tossed the biscuits to them, just like tossing popcorn to a puppy dog, and those rascals would rear their heads out of the water and catch the biscuits in mid-air: chomp, chomp, chomp. We could see their throat muscles’ peristaltic contractions as they downed the biscuit with their heads protruding from the water, snouts pointed skyward.

Yep, that was pretty cool. And a little creepy. These creatures were crafty, and I altered my previous regard for them as dull brutes.

And fascinating or not, I further resolved I don’t ever care to go swimming with them!

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