I was in New Orleans for a conference and checked off some things on my list that I always wanted to do (Preservation Hall Jazz, the World War II Museum, lunch at Cafe Amelie). Still, I found myself with an unencumbered Sunday afternoon in June, and thought to myself, "I've never seen a Cajun guy feed marshmallows to an alligator in the swamp, so maybe I should do that!" I have a special affinity for Louisianan swamps and Cajuns since that's where my father came from. This would mean I am half Cajun, obviously. (The half that likes spicy food, but not the half that is allergic to shellfish.) My father lived on the bayou not far from where this swamp tour would happen (LaFourche Parish) until he was about eight years old. He mentioned it often: pelicans and egrets, alligators and crawfish, sugar cane and molasses.
Okay, truth be told, I had no idea alligators like to eat marshmallows and that Cajuns like to toss them to alligators, but I found this out on the Swamp Tour. Our guide, Captain Reggie,
We rode on a flat-bottomed boat almost exactly like the Salt Marsh Safari boat I'm familiar with in Cape May.
|A smaller fan boat (noisy)|
|A larger fan boat (noisier)|
|The first reptile we encountered|
|Sphagnum moss hanging from tree|
|It looks tropical...|
At one point during our tour, Captain Reggie found a breezy spot to stop and give the boat a rest. From out of a closet that none of us had noticed, he brought out his companion, Elvis, a baby alligator. Cool enough to see one up close, but each of us got to hold it. (Kids got to wear Elvis on their heads.) I did hold Elvis, and here follows photographic proof. He squirmed a little, but more interestingly made soft little sounds almost like a dove cooing.
|Margaret and Elvis (profile)|
|See the marshmallow about to be eaten?|
After I was delivered back to my New Orleans hotel, I Googled Captain Reggie. He said some Disney movie character was named after him, and I was curious about that: Ray in "The Princess and the Frog"? I'm way behind on Disney movies, but I found something even more interesting. Here's Captain Reggie himself (the "Alligator Whisperer") feeding marshmallows to alligators on someone else's tour. You can hear him saying "Ici!" ('here' in French) to the reptiles. Now why didn't I take a video???