Recently, while hunting alligators in the Florida Everglades, I heard what was the unmistakable roar of a bull alligator, and exercising great care I poled along in my flat-bottomed hunting boat toward the sound.
I floated past strange trees and shrubs with strange and fascinating names and observed fish, reptiles, birds and mammals in an area of multitudinous life. Mosquitoes attacked me relentlessly, but I did not cry out.
Again and again I heard the bellowing call of the alligator and I positively identified it as the alligator Floridpurse, which was the specie I had set out to find. Furthermore, I determined that these were mating calls, since it was
I can assure you that if Mrs. Hitchcock had not hinted that she wanted an alligator purse I would not have ventured forth into this vast, grassy, gloomy forest through which the sun could not shine. Mrs. Hitchcock has a theory that things are not what they always appear to be, and what better way can there be of making sure that an alligator purse is the genuine article, than shooting an alligator and having a bag made from its hide. You can see, of course, that this precludes any possibility of imitation.
Therefore, you gather from what I have just said that I was not on a mission I had undertaken lightly. As I glided through the watery vastness of the Glades I soon realized that I was hunting a very clever alligator. Repeatedly, when I arrived at the spot from which I had last heard the call, I would then unexpectedly hear it from another part of the marshland. With grim determination I turned right and left and then backtracked in my hunt for the saurian.
Finally, I heard an angry bellow from a thicket no more than twenty-five feet away, and making the boat fast, I cautiously stepped onto a bit of marshland and then proceeded through dense underbrush to a small clearing.
Imagine my surprise and consternation when I found a well-dressed Seminole Indian sitting on a log blowing an artificial alligator call, which produced the roaring, bellowing sounds I had heard. To add insult to injury, he blew a blast as I watched him.
I must confess that after acquiring blisters poling through the ominous Glades, and having been bitten red by an army of beastly mosquitoes, I was not in my usual cheerful spirits when I said, "You! I thought you were an alligator! I've been hunting you for over two hours."
He stuck out his hand. "Glad to meet you," he said. "I'm Charles Hyde." He smiled and raised his shoulders. "Obviously I'm not an alligator, but if you can tell me why you are hunting alligators perhaps I can help you."
I told him about the purse for Mrs. Hitchcock that had to be made from the hide of a genuine alligator, and when I'd finished he nodded and said, "Yes, I understand." Then he rose from his log and walked to a nearby shack from which he soon returned carrying a dozen beautifully hand-crafted alligator bags.
"I can assure you," he said, "that these are the finest alligator bags available anywhere in the Everglades at any price." Then he gave me a knowing wink and said, "I can also sell you the unused portion of hide from which each bag was made, which will allay any doubts and suspicions in the mind of the lady who is to receive the gift."
Never had I heard such delicious phraseology to set everything into proper perspective.
Frankly, I must admit that the prospect of poling through the Everglades hunting alligators was not especially appealing. My arms ached. I was tired and thirsty, and I was convinced that the situation would grow rapidly worse. Under the circumstances I made a fast deal for an alligator purse and hide, plus the additional expenditure of twenty-five dollars, which he charged to me as a guide fee after he convinced me that I was irretrievably lost and would no doubt perish in the Glades to be eaten by the same specie of alligator I had been hunting.
I followed him as he poled his boat back to territory I recognized. He waved good-bye to me. I hadn't gone more than a few feet when I heard the roaring bellowing call of a bull alligator, produced by Charles Hyde. Instantly, I went back to him. It came' to me that if I had a similar alligator call, I could bag all the alligators I wanted.
"No sense selling you one," he said. "Alligators just laugh when they hear it. In fact, there aren't enough alligators around here for any decent hunting. I'm not in that business. My business is selling alligator bags and hides. There's a fellow at the north end of Okefenokee who does the hunting for me."
He also told me that he made a modest good thing of it by returning lost alligator hunters to civilization. He had worked as a cigar maker, as a bricklayer, and in a barrel-stave factory; but in this, the alligator purse business, he had finally found his true calling.
There was no question: he had built a fetter alligator trap.
I have kept the true story from my wife, and I trust that you will not divulge this secret. She enjoys the purse enormously. I shall be extremely grateful for your cooperation.
Insofar as the stories that follow are concerned, allow me to assure you that you will not hear any false alligator calls, and that the knifings, deceitfulness, shootings, poisonings and general mayhem are bona fide and what they appear to be.