When my family used to live in Berkeley County, we liked to go to a bridge on Old State Road for crawfishing and catfishing. My brother and I had cane poles that we used while our father used a rod and reel. It was early spring, so my mother had her crawfish traps out.
It was a normal day. My brother and I hadn’t had any luck with fishing. So, we watched Mom prep the traps and helped her carefully lower them into the water. She tied one end of the string to the thick concrete “railing” of the bridge before slinging the trap over. The traps looked like giant chandeliers made of twine and metal. She tied chicken necks in the top of the trap, luring crawfish in through the hole in the bottom. Once inside, they would not be able to leave. (Them and the infrequent turtle.)
My brother and I had been fishing in the swamp for as long as we could remember. The most dangerous things we had ever come across were crawfish (also called crayfish and which resemble miniature lobsters), catfish (their spines hurt!), and the occasional snapping turtle. And mosquitoes. We really can’t forget about those. Mom and Dad didn’t care if we ran around barefoot or if we decided to take up noodling. But they were really, really serious about the bug spray.
So, anyway, on this particular day, our mother wasn’t getting anything. We had given up on fishing. Our father, a fisherman to his core, decided to cast out “for the last time”. Cut to five minutes later and we were all getting antsy. Then, splashing erupted. Dad started to yell.
I ran down the steep bank as quickly as I could and came to a skidding halt a few feet to the side of my father.
“GET THE HAMMER! GET THE HAMMER!” Dad yelled.
He had an alligator, four to five feet, on the end of his line. Dad’s broad hands and powerful shoulders were the only things keeping the rod in his hands and the gator in the shallows.
“GET THE HAMMER! DAMMIT, GET THE HAMMER!”
I guess Dad intended on dragging it onto dry land and bashing its head in. Gator tail is excellent eating when prepared properly and imagine the bragging rights Dad would have had for the rest of his life!
I looked up at the top of the bank. Mom stood there with the hammer in her hand and mouth hanging open. She couldn’t believe her eyes. Afraid that I wouldn’t have time to climb to the top, I yelled, “MAMA, TOSS THE HAMMER!”
With one mighty shake and twist, the alligator unhooked himself from the line and swam off into the murky depths of the swamp. The bait was gone, but the hook and floater were intact.
That just goes to show, I guess, that you never know when a boring fishing trip will turn into the wrestling match of a lifetime. And that you can never tell what’s in the water other than fish and crawfish!