Monday, August 04, 2008

Of gators and misconceptions

As a child growing up in New England, I always had this image of Louisiana similar to the ones seen in movies: all swamp and alligators everywhere. When I moved down here over 30 years ago, my ill informed image was put to rest. Louisiana, like every other state in the union, has much of the sameness as other states (walmarts, interstates, jails, etc)and it has sooo much that is awesomely unique.

With the help of NOLA columnist Ron Thibodeaux (tib-a-doe) let's explore some of the misconceptions.Here's the link and here's an exerpt:

When you live in a place as gloriously unique as South Louisiana, it's inevitable to come across some glaring misconceptions from outsiders.

We've all heard them, from the nominally misguided to the patently absurd. As we revel in what makes our home unique, it becomes our duty to set the record straight.

No, just dousing a piece of meat or some other dish with pepper doesn't qualify it as Cajun.

Yes, there is more to Mardi Gras than women showing off their, um, attributes to get beads.

And no, we don't have to fend off alligators as we go about our everyday lives down here.

Over the years we have come to embrace the alligator, figuratively at least, as a state mascot of sorts, an indigenous creature possessed of a mystique that leaves visitors agape.

They can appear ferocious, but many who come in contact with them in the wilds of the Louisiana swamps and bayous know that, unlike their more aggressive cousin the crocodile, most alligators tend to be more skittish of us than we are of them.

The bloodthirsty feeding frenzy by the world's press after Katrina helped plant yet more misconceptions about S.E. Louisiana to the world. True to their colors, the press went after the dirty, gory sensational stories because that's the stuff that sells. They ignored the thousands of people who were just trying to survive while Kathleen Blanco bumbled along and Ray Nagin slowly lost his mind (he's STILL got a slow leak up there somewhere......)

But I digresss.

From yet another article in the T.P. following the gator attack in Slidell last week, some stats:
When an alligator turns up in St. Tammany Parish, sheriff's Deputy Howard McCrea, 61, is the man who gets the call.

He's been doing it for years, pulling gators out of waterways all across the parish. But he had never seen anything like Wednesday's attack on Devin Funck

A national study found in 2005 that only two attacks on people had occurred in Louisiana between 1948 and 2004, compared with 334 attacks and 14 fatalities in Florida. The report stated that numbers might be skewed because of poor documentation.

In 2005, a 12-year-old girl in Venice lost several fingers from a gator bite. In 2007 a 30-year-old woman swimming in Lake Charles was bitten on her buttocks, state Wildlife and Fisheries officials said.

After being hunted nearly to extinction, alligators were listed as an endangered species in 1973. Since then, the population has rebounded along the Gulf Coast, coinciding with suburban sprawl that has placed homes closer to alligator habitats.

McCrea said he enjoys the showmanship of his trade. Sporting camouflage fatigues complete with a glow-in-the-dark alligator logo, he visits classrooms and hands out laminated business cards embedded with pieces of alligator scale.

Mr. McCrea lives in my neighborhood in Slidell. Ten years ago he ran a rescue refuge on his property where he took in gators who had been abused by teenagers and rednecks: gators whose eyes had been shot out, on leg cut off, etc. He also
housed other abused wild animals there. On Sundays he would offer tours to the public of his refuge where a well trained racoon would entertain the crowd. It was very touching, actually to see this ex Marine tough guy (who wouldn't let the high school kids who rode on his school bus to talk in transit) taking care of these huge, potentially life threatening creatures with such tender care but with his years of experience and gator knowledge always in the forefront. The refuge has since closed to the public, but I'll never forget how impressed I was with someone who - until then - I thought was just a big old macho ex marine.

1 comment:

Howie Luvzus said...

Great post. That picture makes me hungry!