01/19/04 — Gator bait

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Gator bait

By Gene Price
Published in News on January 19, 2004 2:02 PM

In Sunday's Outdoors Column, I wrote of the experience James Thompson had while deer hunting near our coast.

He was wading through a swamp when he came upon an alligator that had just grabbed a deer by the leg and was in the process of killing it by spinning over and over in the water.

It brought to mind a disconcerting experience of my own many years ago!

Several of us were on a freshwater fishing expedition at Camp Bryan near Havelock. The lakes there have some enormous alligators. They can be seen sunning on the embankments paralleling the main canal.

One particularly huge 'gator had a favorite spot where it frequently was observed.

I was bent on getting a close-up picture of the critter for the newspaper.

A small sapling was growing on the embankment where the alligator rested. It was 150 yards or so down the berm from the docks.

I figured I could get on the opposite side of the embankment and crawl along it until I was beside the tree. Then it would simply be a matter of rising up, camera-at-the-ready, and snapping a close-up of the big 'gator before it splashed over the side.

I'm not sure whether their loyalties lay with the 'gator or with me, but an interested audience gathered at the boat landing when I started stalking toward the alligator. It was a long haul, creeping slowly and quietly along while bent close to the ground. But finally I was in position.

I again checked the camera, adjusting the focus to three feet by estimate, making certain it was ready to be snapped. Then, ever so slowly, I began to rise upward toward the top of the embankment.

That's when it happened.

Suddenly, there was a hideous roar as, simultaneously, something grabbed my leg, twisting viciously!

I'll never know who was the most surprised and frightened -- Gene Price or the 'gator in front of me.

The alligator hit the water with a huge splash and cheering spectators from the dock swore I went four feet straight up in the air.

And I probably would have gone higher -- except that practical joker Dan Ward, who, without my knowledge, had silently crept just behind me, was still clutching my leg and growling like a hungry alligator!