Wednesday we scouted Gillham Lake’s other campsites, Little Coon Creek and Big Coon Creek. Big CC is on Gillham Lake. Little CC is in a wooded area without water frontage. Our campsite is better for us. All over the park the perfection of the redbud and dogwood blossoms says we have purchased another two weeks of spring by rolling north 400 miles. Can such things be? Is it really possible to have a full six weeks of dogwood bloom weather?
On the way back we stopped at the camp host’s trailer to pay $32.50 for five days. With water, electricity, and dump station rights included, that deal’s hard to beat. Our host is the vivacious Reba Higgins who had twenty questions upon seeing our New Orleans address. Her high school class took a senior trip to Bourbon Street where she had her first martini, first beer, and first crawfish. That was back when the legal drinking age in Louisiana was 18, so I’m guessing Class of ’60. Reba still seemed to like the idea of New Orleans. A camper had recently found and given Reba a partial skeleton that she and some others thought had once been an alligator. Reba said “I always tell people we don’t have no gators. Is this one? Have you ever had gator? I had a chance to once when some campers invited me to share theirs, but I turned it down. Now I wish I’d a tried it. You had it?”
I have, but always on the company’s dime at fancy restaurants. “Yes, maybe three or four times. It’s real good fried or in sauce picante (a very peppery tomato sauce), but kind of wasted in gumbo. But much of the fun was the novelty; gator tastes a lot like slightly tougher, slightly fishy chicken. And at $10 a pound for gator, or $4 for chicken, it’s an easy choice. Even so, you should try it if you get the chance.”
I asked Reba about the bear cans, garbage dumpsters that require human fingers to open. “Oh, we have bears and mountain lions. Bears love garbage. But do you think that’s a gator skeleton?” I promised her that if Google knew, she would soon know, too.
Here’s what I found. It looks exactly like the torso of a gator skeleton, and since it had no head, neck, legs, or tail, that’s all we have to go on. The vertebrae look right. The pelvis looks right. I measured the torso at 41”, which means with tail, neck and head, this once was a 7 to 8 foot alligator. Which begs this question: can an Arkansas brown bear kill a grown gator? And why would he risk the fight? And one more: should I walk to the latrine at 3:00 a.m. carrying my shotgun?