I had a weird obsession with the show Swamp People for a long time, at one point trying to convince my dad that we would make a great father/daughter team on the show. It was quickly pointed out to me that I would not be good at any of the skills needed for this line of work: wrestling the gators, pulling them onto the boats, or shooting them in their “quarter-sized kill spot” while my dad was holding it down without some sort of mishap.
But I’m convinced it would have made for amazing tv nonetheless.
There was no doubt in my mind that part of my New Orleans tour was going to involve a swamp tour. I was still weirdly fascinated by the whole thing. I decided there was no better day to go spot some gators than my 31st birthday.
So my friend and I woke up early, ate some breakfast, and then hopped on board a bus with a motley crew of people on the same tour that drove us an hour outside of the city to the swamplands.
We had both faced the dilemma and had a deep discussion about what made proper swamp tour attire that morning, and as we rolled up, I was convinced we had done better than most.
We were greeted by Captain Jerry, who spoke with the slow Louisiana swampland Southern drawl that was everything I had hoped for–a step away from needing subtitles, but the real deal.
My heart thumped with excitement when he said, “There are life vests, but I’m sure you’ll figure out how to use those if you need to.” I had wanted it to be a little rough around the edges while still being safe, and thus far all of my boxes were ticked. This was officially the best birthday gift I could have gotten for myself.
As we boarded the boat, I looked around to determine if things went south who would be more likely to get eaten by a gator than me.
First there was the woman who decided it was a great idea to bring a 5 month old child on a swamp tour. It seemed idiotic to bring such a fresh baby on board, as it could literally be gator bait. Plus the mother clearly wasn’t the brightest based on these life choices so she’d likely be up for grabs as well.
Then there was the man in a wheelchair, who I at first felt sorry for and then quickly lost all my sympathy. He told the story of how he got into a car accident that was his fault and then asked the other person why they had hit him and shifted the blame onto them to act like they caused the accident–and mentioned that this had happened more than once in his life. You can’t bargain with a gator, and I figured it would be karma for being an asshole.
Plus I made sure to make eyes and laugh at Captain Jerry, even though he was easily 20 years my senior, in case things did go south, so I’d be the first to be saved. He clearly knew his way around these swamps and I needed him in my corner.
Alligators would swim right up to the boat, which I found to be quite unnatural and very unlike things I’d seen on tv. But Captain Jerry came out with a hotdog on a stick to get the beast to jump out of the water. These animals were so conditioned to be fed that they would just swim up to the boats, expecting food.
It was incredibly cool to be so close to them in their natural habitat. I don’t know why it fascinated me so much, but I definitely loved it more than I probably should have.
As we jetted our way through the swamp, Captain Jerry spilling all of his plant and animal knowledge, he pointed out that if you go toward that opening in the marshes he lived just up that direction.
My jaw hit the floor as I elbowed my friend in the side. He was an actual swamp person. My birthday wish had come true.
We pulled up to a spot of land where Captain Jerry fed the wild boars he endearingly called Kevin Bacon and Piggie Smalls, which I thought meant he had a soft spot for the pigs.
That was until he said, “There’s a 300 pound boar out here that we’ve been feeding corn since he’s been a baby and all I can think is that he’d make the best bacon I’ve ever eaten.”
Then he went on a tangent about the best chicken livers and turtle soup he had when he ventured into the city.
Needless to say the experience was everything as weird and wonderful as I could have wished for on my birthday, and as I exited the boat I was left wondering what I could possibly do next year to top this level of excitement.