The Alligator (Circa 1940)
Our story begins when Gerry Lou was a little girl. Maybe 10 years old, which would have been 1941 or so. Her father, Gerald Lee Brogoitti (Gerald … Gerry … see the correlation?), bought her a little alligator for Easter.
Remember when you could buy little bunnies and chicks at Easter – so you could leave them in the garage overnight and let them freeze solid? At least you could before Al Gore started Global Warming – just after he created the Internet. Apparently in the ‘40s, right after the earth cooled, you could also buy little alligators at Easter.
She kept her little alligator in an old cast-iron bathtub that sat out in the pasture behind the house. When her family went to church that morning (or another morning, I’m not certain – as if it somehow matters), the alligator escaped from the bathtub never to be seen again. (I’m fairly certain that it grew to be huge and re-emerged to eat one of my cousins many years later, but that’s another story).
Mom was so distraught, and was such the apple of her father’s eye, that Gerald (aka G.L.) put an ad in the Mt. Pleasant Tribune: “Missing – One Alligator” That way, my Mother knew that her loving Daddy was doing everything in his power to retrieve her beloved pet.
One day at the Piggly Wiggly grocery store, which my grandfather owned, one of the good ol’ boys from out in the Sulphur River bottoms showed up. “Dynamite” Harvey (a nickname he received from his method of fishing) was a regular at the store.
Now, had Dynamite Harvey come from Louisiana, I suspect he would have referred to himself as a “coon a**”. Had he been from Arkansas, a “hillbilly” or a “redneck”. Elsewhere, perhaps a “yellow hammer”. In East Texas, saying that someone was from the Sulphur River Bottoms told you everything you needed to know. But according to Gerry Lou, the Harveys were good people.
Mr. Harvey said to my grandfather: “Mr. Brogoitti, I saw your ad in the paper about the missing alligator. I think I found him.” Mr. Harvey proceeded to lead my grandfather out to his pickup. Chained in the back was a real, live, genuine, six-foot alligator, chained to the bed of the truck. Apparently, Mr. Harvey and his brothers caught said alligator themselves and brought it to my grandfather for grins.
I don’t think G. L. took Mr. Harvey’s alligator home to my mother.
In any “normal” sense, that would have been the end of a somewhat hysterical, made-up story. But we’re not done with this one just yet.
Many years later, after Mom had passed, I was at my uncle’s funeral, telling the alligator story to a friend of the family. While I was doing so, someone tapped on my shoulder. I turned to see an elderly woman, who would have been about the same age as my Mother. She had overheard me telling the story and said: “It’s true. My parents gave Gerry that alligator.” Seems that, though her parents gave my Mother an alligator, they didn’t give their own daughter one. She probably carried the resentment to her grave. And I had the gall to even forget her name.
And so, there you have it. Some passing confirmation of the validity of the alligator story – at least one part of it.
Yes, this is my family. Imagine how much fun we had growing up.