I’ve always enjoyed stereotypes. I know it’s not the politically correct thing to say, but they tend to be rather funny so long as you’re not in front of the person that is the butt of the joke. I talked with a Southerner over the last couple days and that was quite the eye-opening experience not because I learned how stereotypes were wrong, but because I realized how accurate they can be. Now, keep in mind that she is no ordinary southerner. She’s from southern Louisiana – a land I refer to as swamp country and CreoleLand. I asked her if she had any pets and being the smartass that I am I added: “besides gators or other reptiles” to the question.
“What counts as a gator?” was the response that I got.
“Umm, what counts as a gator to you?” I asked.
“Well, Fred – you see we used to keep him in the tank – but he’s over six feet now so we let him outside,” she answered.
Six feet is a little larger than the average man. I don’t know where you’re from, but where I’m from if you see an alligator wandering the streets around your house you make two phone calls – one to the police and one to the local news because this is going to be on YouTube within the hour.
“You just let old Fred wander around the neighborhood?” I asked.
“He ain’t gonna hurt nobody,” she said. “He’s just a gator, it’s not like he’s a crocodile.” The only thing that I know about alligators and crocodiles is that one lives in freshwater and the other lives in salt water.
“Do you have a pool or something for your gator?” I asked sarcastically.
“No, Fred stays out by the pond most nights,” she said in all seriousness.
“You have your own pond?” I asked.
“Of course we do. There are only six roads that lead into town and five of them flood. How do you think anybody gets around when it’s raining?” She asked. I had to admit that I hadn’t given that a lot of thought. The idea of the gator wandering around town unchaperoned was enough to fill me with culture shock.
“I suppose you’ve all got boats too,” I said, again sarcastically.
“Yes, sir. Sean Penn can’t be the only one helping us out after a hurricane. What do we do if he’s in Haiti?” She asked. That was a rather astute question I thought.
She lived on a farm, which wasn’t surprising to me in the least. I thought everyone lived on a farm down there otherwise how would anyone get enough food to survive? What did surprise me was that everything on the farm had some sort of strange purpose. They raised hogs so that they’d have money to raise chickens and everything else throughout the year. She mentioned that she had gotten rather attached to one of the pigs, but that he had to go to market a few weeks ago, so that’s where that friendship ended.
The most interesting story I heard was about her donkeys. She’s got three horses and two donkeys because after all, who doesn’t? I asked why she had donkeys because I had always been under the impression that the donkey was used as an animal to carry luggage Don Quixote style.
“No, no, not at all,” she said. “The donkeys kill the snakes.”
“Snakes?” I asked in my best Indiana Jones voice.
“Yep, sometimes they get bigger than the alligators,” she explained.
Now, it hadn’t occurred to me that old Fred might have some competition for his food supply considering the unique ecosystem in which he lived, but even if I had come up with an animal that might step on his toes I wouldn’t have thought of a snake.
“They eat my bunnies sometimes,” she said of the snakes.
“My dogs eat bunnies,” I added. “My Border Collie brought one back instead of a tennis ball the other day.”
“Yeah, but when the snake eats them you have to watch them digest it,” she said and with that I had to try and stop the awful images that were conjuring in my head.
She told me a story about how she once tried to save one of her snakes from the donkey, which is something that sounds like the punchline to a joke, but it’s not. Apparently, the donkey is not a particularly eager or ambitious animal (shocker) but one day one of the donkeys followed one of their pet snakes out to the barn and she tried to stop the snake without killing it by shooting it with a bb gun. That only made it mad so it attacked her. I asked her what she thought it would do if she shot it, but she was non-responsive. She wound up having to call a friend with her iPhone to bring the shot gun out so they could kill it before it got out of the barn and caused some real damage. I have no idea what would have constituted “real damage,” but given the context of this conversation my guess is that it would have been damage on a pretty large scale. Once they killed it they took it out to the pet semetary that they have out behind the woods because of course there has to be a little Stephen King in this story to make it real.
What’s interesting about the pet semetary is that it’s in the same place as the family cemetery (which we don’t have enough time to talk about here.) Basically, the animals and the people are buried together. This goes back to something that Hernan Cortes did when he first started kidnapping Indians back in the 1500’s. Her family has discovered gravestones that are hundreds of years old though and written in many different languages. All in all, I had a strange longing to visit the animal farm after I heard about it. I know it sounds strange, but it holds a slight allure to me now. It’s like something exotic that you can’t quite put your finger on, but calls you towards it with a force you can’t quite identify.