(This is a repost from 10/16, Preacher Hebert’s Summer Vacation. Enjoy!)
In the summer of 1921 he was thirteen years old. After school ended that year he took a pirogue, a cast iron skillet, a shotgun, and some clothes into the swamp. It takes a lot of coordination to even sit in a pirogue, much less paddle one through a swamp. Setting up camp in an old houseboat with a wood-burning stove, he was there by himself all summer, living off the land. If he wanted to eat he had to catch it himself—fish, duck, squirrel. Do you know any thirteen-year-olds in this day and age who could spend an entire summer alone in the swamp catching all their food?
In the southwest Louisiana of 1921 money was scarce for his family. His reason for being in the swamp was to hunt alligators. No gator season back then, and the big reptiles were as thick as birds. Some might question why he didn’t go home at night. Because nighttime was when he hunted them.
The swamps and bayous of the area teemed with small fur-bearing animals—mink, muskrat, and nutria—and they were worth a lot of money. The alligators, on the other hand, were worth nothing, and ate those little animals faster than a Cajun can suck the heads from twenty pounds of crawfish.
A wealthy landowner from Lake Charles put a price on gator hides—$5.50 for anything from seven and a half to twenty feet long. Hides from four to seven feet brought in $1.50. That was a lot of money in 1921.
When darkness descended he would paddle the pirogue through inky waters with a lantern and a shotgun. The full moon kept the obscurity of night at bay, but the rest of the month the blackness there was smothering. He shined the lantern out into the water and the only thing shining back at him were red gator eyes. He paddled to within two or three feet of the eyes, and keeping the light trained on them, shot at the space between the eyes.Continue Reading