Florida Brave

The alligator wrestling show down at Gatorland is a lot of fun. The gator wrestler stands on a concrete island surrounded by a moat filled with alligators. At the beginning of the show, he grabs an alligator by its tail and hauls it out of the moat on to the island.

Actually, that’s not quite true. Prior to the show beginning the wrestlers asks for a volunteer.

Last time we were there, my six year old was that volunteer. He crossed the bridge on to the island to join the gator wrestler. 

This is the point at which I have to mention that my wife was not present. Had she been present, I’ve a feeling he never would have made that particular trip…

In any case, the wrestler introduced himself, then introduced my son to the crowd. They had a little back and forth, typical of what you’d see at any show involving six-year old volunteers.

Then it got interesting.

The wrestler asked my son to pick out a gator – which he did. Then he put his arm around my son’s shoulder and explained the plan. He (the wrestler) was going to distract the gators. While he was doing that, my son was to charge the moat, jump in, and pull out a gator.

C nodded. “Okay.”

The wrestler and the crowd laughed, of course, but not my little guy. His eyes were focused on the moat filled with gators. I saw his little hands clench into fists and then release again. He adjusted his feet for a sprint.

Several yards away, back in the stands, I shook my head. ”Don’t do this,” I muttered. “You better stay close.”

The wrestler held up his hands and counted down. “Okay, ready? 1…2…3… Go!”

My son launched himself forward, but the gator guy was a tad quicker, catching him before he reached the moat. “Okay, okay, No. Don’t do that.  I was just kidding.”

He kept hold of him and looked around at the laughing crowd. “Is this guy’s parents here?”

I raised my hand.

“You got one brave kid, here. Crazy brave.”

The crowd applauded and he brought my son back to me.

The show went on, and our day at Gatorland continued. We hiked the boardwalk, fed some alligators, had a great time. Later, as we working our way through a crowd, someone called my son by name.

We all turned towards the voice. A man in a wheelchair pointed at him with one hand, and slapped his friend with another. “That’s the kid I was telling you about. Hey!” He held his hand up for a high five. “You’re the bravest kid I’ve ever seen.”

My son smiled hesitantly and backed up closer to me. I patted him on the shoulder. “It’s okay, kiddo. I’m here. You can get a high five.”

He ran over to high five the guy. “Thanks!”

He walked back to me wearing the widest smile I’ve ever seen. “Daddy,” he whispered. “I’m famous!”

I nodded, patted him on the back, and mouthed ‘thank you’ to the guy in the wheelchair. ”And brave,” I said.

“Am I famous-er than you?” He asked.

“Well,” I answered. “At least until I charge a pit full of alligators.”

He laughed. “Yeah.”

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