During the late thirties many young men went down to Florida to peel oranges for the summer. One of those fellows was my sister Bab’s boyfriend at the time. His name was Jacques Robeeeshaw* but in our one room schoolhouse he was known as Poop. You can imagine why.
So when Poop came home from Florida, perhaps in an effort to impress my sister, he brought me an alligator about four feet long. It took some strength to handle him. He was a very strong and healthy alligator. We had to grab him behind the neck so he could not bite us. We named him Alleyoop.
The first winter we kept him in an iron kettle near my mother’s six cover cook stove. It was an enormous black pot and he was pretty happy in it. He pretty much slept and ate his way through the winter. Sometimes we took him out to play with him. He became accustomed to us. (In these days I suppose the animal rights people and children protection agencies would have a slight problem with our pet.)
When summer came, we tied him with a fairly stout string to a post at the corner of the porch. We gave him about eight or ten feet to move around. We went out every other day and fed him raw hamburger. Our summer guests were impressed with our unique pet.
One day in late fall we went to feed him and he was not to be found. The string and everything was gone. So we figured that was the end. We were immediately disturbed because alligators were not built for 20 below weather. That winter it went down to 40 below.
So we thought, well, that’s it for the alligator.
Now for the winter we banked the farmhouse with sawdust a foot deep and a foot thick to insulate the house. It helped to keep us warm in those very cold winters. That bank of sawdust was in a trough made of planks which went all around the house except for where we put up the wood in the cellar.
Winter passed, and one fine spring day I was under the porch looking for some spare change. Summer guests would sometimes drop coins from their pockets which would roll around and fall down beneath the porch. I was crawling along under the porch looking for some change because I wanted to go to the movies in town. That cost about fifty cents and if I got any extra I could buy some popcorn. Anyway, I had gotten up to maybe 35 cents when all of a sudden out of the sawdust came a big head with an open mouth, full of teeth, snarling and hissing. Aaaargggggghrrrrrrrssssssss… and there was Alleyoop, evidently awakened from his deep winter sleep. I reared back and raised my head so quickly I hit it hard on the underneath of the porch. I scooted out from under the house as quickly as I could. Then I pulled out my alligator and began to feed him again.
It appeared Alleyoop had been in some type of hibernation through the coldest months of the year. He recovered completely. We celebrated that he had found a place to keep himself alive all that winter.
Poop was a freshman at the University of Maine and when he heard we had found Alleyoop, he came by and asked if he could take the alligator to the University of Maine to show his professor. So I said, sure.
Down to the University went Alleyoop. He never came back. They wanted to see him all right – inside and out. Three years later when I was a freshman at U of Maine, I saw Alleyoop again. There was a little building behind the Girls Dorm called the Entomology Building. There he was- over the top of the entomology door, stuffed. And, as far as I know, there he is to this day.
*name changed to be polite