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Late one afternoon at Iamonia Lake Club, a group of folks was sitting around talking when the subject of alligators came up. As it happened, there was a Club member there who had plenty of experience with gators and was who willing to share some of his vast wisdom with them. Unfortunately that member was my father, so the only thing of any value they learned was why Iamonia Lake is a terrible place to be gullible.
During the course of the conversation, someone mentioned calling alligators. Since baby alligators “chirped” and the mama gators responded, they wondered if humans could do the same thing.
At this point, my father weighed in and told them he could call up a gator any time he wanted. In fact, he said he could get one to come right up to the bank of the creek, just a few yards away from where they were sitting.
When they asked how, he held his hand to his mouth and yelled in a high-pitched voice, “Heeeere gator, gator, gator!”
The group immediately called BS, but Daddy offered to prove it right then. In a classic put-up-or-shut-up moment, he walked down to the creek bank and started in with his ridiculous call, (probably adding a name like “Dixie” or “George” for effect.)
Everyone had a big laugh at the spectacle . . . right up until a six-foot gator appeared in the black water, 50 feet away and swimming directly toward them. When the gator got close, Daddy turned and casually walked back up to the Clubhouse with some newly and duly impressed visitors hot on his heels.
Convinced they had witnessed some backwoods black magic, they asked him how it worked. And Daddy laid it on thick, explaining that it was all about the hand placement, the rhythm and the pitch of his voice. He even had them try it themselves a few times just for good measure (and to prove that only he had the magic touch.)
* * *
If my father ever told me who those folks were, I’ve long since forgotten. But I can make a couple of really solid assumptions. For one, I know that they didn’t spend much time around the Clubhouse. Otherwise, they would have realized that Daddy called this particular gator only after walking right past the cleaning bench. That was the spot where everyone “recycled” their fish heads and guts into the creek on a daily basis. He was also careful to step on a piece of tin at the water’s edge that made a slight but distinctive splashing sound as he called.
The other thing I know about this group of onlookers is that they clearly didn’t know my father well. If they had, they would have recognized the exact moment when they should have become suspicious of a trick.
That moment was when Daddy started talking.