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A Stone's Throw: See ya later, alligator


Betty Stone



What is it about some perfectly nice people that gives them an affinity for alligators? Richard "Poogie" Laws is one such person; although in all fairness I must say this episode took place many years ago. Perhaps he would not be so fascinated by reptilian company today, although he does like to fish and does so nearly every day. I guess he is often in their environment. 


Anyway, once upon a time, long ago, when he was on a trip down to bayou country, he purchased two baby alligators. You could buy them in pet stores in those days. Maybe you still can. I do not know and am not on a quest to find out. 


He brought them home and put them in a 5-gallon aquarium. He kept them about four years, and they grew to be about 2 feet long.  


Poogie told me most authoratativly that many creatures will not outgrow their containers. Alligators and goldfish notably do not outgrow the aquaria that contain them. (It seems to me as if there might be a life lesson here. I have known a few human beings who "got too big for their britches," haven't you?) 


Poogie enlisted the aid of his friend, Clayton "Sonny" Richardson, who lived out at the end of Ninth Street South and had plenty of space to accommodate the alligators in some kind of pond. Nothing much was said about what Sonny's mother, Frances, felt about housing the alligators. Some things are better not explored. 


They fed the gators minnows. The gators seemed to coexist in harmony, until one day in a fight one of them ate the leg off the other. Surprisingly the three-legged alligator survived. The other one froze to death one winter. Alligators hibernate in the winter. 


During the time he had the alligators, Poogie learned a lot about them. Everyone knows they have strong jaw muscles and can snap a limb off. But that strength is just for biting. The opposing muscles that open the mouth are not strong and the mouth can be held shut easily without very much pressure. Disclaimer: Do not try this at home. Or, I would suggest, anywhere you can avoid it. 


Finally the surviving alligator died and was disposed of by throwing it in a ditch across the street from the police station. There someone saw the carcass and harpooned it with a stick. He even had his picture made for the newspaper holding up the alligator he had "killed with a stick." I hate to disillusion anyone, but Poogie affirms the alligator was already dead when they threw it there. 


I do not know if this makes anyone feel any better. I occasionally get a little sad feeling for the alligators, but not at all sad enough to be in their vicinity. It seems that is not as unlikely as it once was. Someone has reported seeing an 8-foot alligator recently out at Lake Norris; and several years ago I heard about an alligator being captured on Wolf Road. 


If you tend to be scared of things that go bump in the night, I guess you can add alligators to your list. They may be proliferating in these parts. All I know is I do not want to "see ya later, alligator."


Betty Boyls Stone is a freelance writer, who grew up in Columbus.


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