Wednesday, October 07, 2009
Ford Fiesta: Cracker Country Gator Wrastlin' Adventure!
Our fifth mission was one of the best yet. Brad and I went to Gatorland in Orlando to fulfill his lifelong dream of wrestling an alligator. Ever the closet country boy, my buddy Brad grew up on a farm and wrestled juvenile livestock when he himself was a kid. At long last, Brad was ready for the challenge.
I've also had a special place in my heart for the reptiles, since I used to come across them in my hardcore Everglades fishing days -- sometimes a little too close for comfort.
Even though Brad got all the hot reptile action on this mission, believe me, I was no less shy. Whenever he was in front of the camera, I was only a foot away from the gator's business end, capturing the footage you see in the video.
For the first time since we started doing these Ford Fiesta missions, Brad and I actually drove out of town for adventure and really got into the whole spirit of the road thing. I drove for four hours straight from South Miami to Orlando down the turnpike. This was a big deal for me, considering my panic attack situation a year or so ago, when I could barely get behind the wheel of a car. Talk about freedom!
I'm not going to get into too much detail here about Gatorland, because I'm going to be writing a story at Miami Beach 411 about this amazing park. But I will tell you this: of all the parks in Orlando, Gatorland is one I would not only bring people to, I'd insist that they go. And honestly, I can't wait to go back.
Right next to busy Orange Blossom Trail is this amazing swampland, covered with natural vegetation, where humans can learn all about the wily ways of gators, crocodiles and other animals. It's a conservancy of sorts -- gators that would otherwise end up as Gucci bags have a safe place to live out the rest of their lives.
And the best part of all: we got a humbling lesson in history. The term cracker is not some pejorative term for redneck, as we thought it was. It actually refers to the sound whips made when cowboys used to drive their beasts across the prairies and hammocks of Florida.
Cowboys in Florida? Why, yes -- and not of the cocaine variety. Before oranges, Florida used to be big on cattle husbandry. Heck, even today there are even some wild Florida cows roaming out there among the cypress trees and palmetto.
Anyway, in the hammocks, and especially during the dry season, alligators would hang out in deep pockets of water, which were obviously sources of hydration for wild animals as well as herds of cows.
The hunkering, hungry reptiles could just grab one of those thirsty suckers by the snout, which wasn't good business for cattle ranchers, so the crackers had to get the darn critters out of the way.
And that, my friends, is the origin of alligator wrestling. Cowboys didn't have to do that in the Wild West, did they?
Actually, that really wasn't the best part. The whip cracker guy was really hot. He spoke in a delicious, melt-in-your-mouth drawl and boy, he could talk gator. Impressive. They don't make men like that in Miami, do they? I might need to get me a cracker boy to whoop this city girl's ass in shape! Though that might be like Crocodile Dundee does the fetish club ... I don't know.
Anyway, that's all I'm going to say for now about Gatorpark -- enjoy the video!
PS ... do yourself a favor and call Gatorland's main phone line before 5 PM EST. If you don't laugh your ass off, you aint alive: 1-800-393-5297.
Special thanks to Tim Williams, Brandon, Donny and the rest of the warm and friendly park staff who helped make our visit such a rewarding day.