DiFatta: I was almost a snack for a mamma gatorBy PHIL DIFATTA,
I can't personally mimic the sound, so it would be virtually impossible for me to describe in print the sound a frightened baby alligator makes. I can, however, describe the sound I made when I saw the baby's 10-foot mama swimming toward the boat.
“Carl, CARL, cut the line,” I screamed in my finest soprano voice. But tightwad Carl kept on fiddling with hook, trying his best to save a two-dollar lure! Even with that baby gator's needle-like teeth shredding his fingers, Carl meant to retrieve his lure. Trouble is, that mama gator was determined she was gonna save her baby. I was between Big Carl and Big Mama, of course, and my wormy butt would have made only a quick snack.
My big ol' friend and fishing partner, Carl Winstead, and I had just launched his 10-foot aluminum boat in an old oxbow lake near the Chickasawhay River in Greene County. When he spotted several foot-long baby gators swimming nearby, he asked me as he launched the lure, “Reckon they'll hit this spinnerbait?”
Before I could say a word, the little gators attacked the bait like a school of piranhas would attack a naked swimmer. Not only did one swallow Carl's lure, but the others followed right along as he reeled it in. The little gator made its “Mama, help me” sound as soon as Carl laid a hand on it, and Mama wasted no time in responding.
Yes, that really happened, but fortunately for me, I'm still around to tell the tale. So, it's obvious the mama gator didn't have me for hors d'oeuvres (yep, I had to look that one up) before taking up the main course, Carl. Luckily, he got the little feller unhooked, then pitched it to its mama, just as the ol' gal reached the boat. By then she was maybe two feet from my butt, and any closer I'd have needed the Charmin.
In spite of the close call with the gator, and after my blood pressure returned to normal, Big Carl and I caught a boatload of fish, ranging from bass to bream to crappie. All we had to do was change baits/lures to catch a variety of species. You never know what you're gonna catch; that's the beauty of fishing oxbow lakes, or as some folks call 'em, dead lakes.
But that's not all the beauty of it. Through the years Carl and I witnessed many wonders of nature, as did our sons later. Not only was the flora something to behold, but we often watched deer feeding leisurely along the water's edge; deer that we'd hunt later when the season opened. We most always heard the squeals and grunts of wild hogs as they ravaged the forest. Ducks constantly zipped in and out of flooded timber. Then there were beavers busily gathering materials to build their hut, squirrels hopping from limb to limb and countless other species of wild game wandering about.
But, of course, there were the plentiful gators - the only sight I didn't particularly care to see. In fact, one fall, several years later, while scouting for deer, I ran across a big alligator skull, bleached by the few rays of sunlight that reach the forest floor there in the swamp. And I just had to wonder...
That was then, and this is now. My memory fades with age, but I can readily remember those times in great detail some 30 years ago or so, like the time a colossal cottonmouth fell into my end of the boat. A swift lick from a boat paddle eliminated that threat in a hurry (my reflexes were much better back then!).
Now, my big ol' friend Carl has gone on to meet his Maker, but the good memories will forever remain – like the times we took our young sons so they, too, could share the experience. And if you'd like to share the experience and create lasting memories, give oxbow fishing a try. And when you go, try to take a kid with you … every time you can. Just don't feed the gators, if you know what I mean.
PineBelt News outdoor writer Phil DiFatta may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for story ideas and photos. You may also text photos, with contact info, to 601-596-4475. Outdoor news is slow this time of year, so Phil encourages both his readers to contact him with column topics.