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Murder by Death

I read cozy and historical mysteries, a bit of Paranormal/UF, and to mix it up, I read science and gardening books on occasion.

Festive Tasks of the Season: Día de los Muertos Task #4

Well, I'm back from holiday and I've finished up all (I think) of the behind-the-scenes Festive Task tasks and I'm ready to play along.


I'm going to start with Task #4:  Do you have any traditions or mementos of happy memories of a loved one that you feel like sharing?


I'm going to share a story from my father's childhood, as told by my father to a journalist who was documenting life in Florida in the early to mid-1900's.  These were stories I grew up hearing at the dinner table, that I never got tired of hearing; almost all of them were funny in some fashion, but this one seems fitting for the holiday that kicks off the Festive Tasks as we usher out Halloween Bingo.


The gator:

“In the late 1930’s when I got big enough, I discovered I could make some money by catching specimens for the Bass Lab on New Point Comfort.  It’s full name was the Bass Biological Laboratory and Zoological Research Supply Company.  Bass would buy alligators, among other things.  I couldn’t handle one more than about 4 to 5 feet.  That was as big as I wanted to catch and as big as I could carry.  I think I could get one or two dollars for one that big.  Babies weren’t worth much ‘cause you could just go out and pick them up all over the place.”


“Well, one night I had been out in the woods with ole Jake – that was a tame racoon I had that followed me like a dog – and I caught an alligator. He was close to 5 feet long.  I wrapped his snout up and put him over my shoulder and took him home.  I was going to put him in one of the pens I had under the house.”


“At this time my uncle Cee and my Aunt Eura had moved back to Palm Island.  Eura had a sister, Helen, who was one year older than I was.  I guess that would have made her about 15 when this happened.  She was still going to school on the mainland so she would stay with us during the week then go to Palm Island on the weekends.  There was a hall that ran through the house we had there.  She slept on one of those rollaway cots that had castors on it, there in the hallway.”


“Well, the night I caught the ‘gator I got home, and it was late.  Carrying it home had worn me out.  I knew I had to get to bed so I could get up for school, so I just tied the ‘gator up at the front steps instead of letting it loose in a pen.  I walked into the house and the moonlight was coming in all the windows, and there was Helen fast asleep on that cot.”


“To this day I don’t know what came over me – but I suddenly had a thought.  I just wondered what she would do if she woke up in the morning and found that ‘gator lying there on the floor next to her cot.  Well, there was only one way to find out.”


“I went back outside and I tried to calm the ‘gator real good.  Alligators are sort of peculiar – you can set ‘em down, and turn ‘em belly side up on their backs and rub their bellies.  They will just kind of go to sleep.  It seems to sort of hypnotize them.  Sometimes they will stay that way for quite a long while – sometimes only for a few minutes.”


“Well, this ‘gator got nice and calm.  I brought him back in the house real quiet.  I tied the rope that I had the ‘gator tied up with to one of the legs of the cot, which I think I mentioned had castors on it.  I was kind of pleased with myself as I started to get ready for bed thinking about the big discovery in the morning when Helen would wake up.”


“The next thing I knew the house was filled with the most blood curdling screams you have ever heard in your life.  I, of course, immediately thought that I knew what had happened – she had discovered the ‘gator.”


“But it was really much worse.  I went out in the hallway and there’s Helen sitting up on the cot and darned if that ‘gator’s not moving out.  He’s trying to head back to the swamp with the cot in tow.  Of course, those castors make it real easy to pull, and he is going all over the hallway with Helen and the cot.  I have to say it was one of the funniest things I have ever seen!”


“I probably would have gotten the only whipping of my life that night except for the fact that when my mother and father came out into the hall and saw the scene, my father just couldn’t contain himself.  He had a great sense of humor.  He just broke up laughing and could hardly stop.  I was of course, verbally reprimanded eventually.  My mother told me to get the creature out of the house that instant and not ever to do that again!”


“Not too long ago a lady came in our shop and introduced herself to my wife.  She said, ‘My name is Helen Alderman’ and before she could say anything else, my wife, having heard the story, immediately said, ‘Oh you’re the one whose cot Larry tied the alligator to,’ to which Helen replied ‘Yes, and I darn well may kill that Larry yet!’ Well, we might not have had television back then but it wasn’t all that uneventful in those days!”