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P: Okay, you were going to tell me a story about alligator country? R: Yes, see they way they do it, they would take a can of lye, or red devil we called it. I guess you know what it is in a can. P: Red devil lye? R: Yes. P: I am sure. R: It was something like Draino anyway. And so they would put it on a long pole and drive a bunch of holes in that can and wire it to a pole and run it down in this gator cave. They would work it up and down in that gator. That would get that lye in there and when it would, well that alligator could not stand it with his eyes and he would come out. So they told this guy, it was, Sam Downin who it was, and so Ark the Hark Marlow, he was some relative, he would get a lot of alligators and at that particular time they where getting a good price for them. But Hark would go in there and he would grunt him up and he would come up and he just catches the end of his nose and hold it together and kill him with a hatchet. P: You mean he would call him up by making the noise. R: You know how one goes. P: Did you ever do that? R: What? P: Did you ever hunt them? R: No, only this one time and I just went with these guys. They told Sam how to do it with that can of lye so he went and got him a pole and he got up there and he stood there a long time to the side doing it. He got tired with it and so he turned his back to the hole. He was working that can of lye up and down 1



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there and that alligator come out of there. Well, it was just burning his eyes up. He come up right between his legs a flopping and a flapping and knocked him down and every time he got up the alligator would run over him. He thought the alligator was trying to catch him. The alligator could not see; he was trying to get away. Oh, gee he got mad. P: Was he on a tussock when he was doing that? R: Yes, in a cave. They would work up this mud, they would go in these caves right at the east tussock and they go back in them cave and they come and lay their eggs on these tussocks. They would build a great high mound on this tussock and that is where they would lay their eggs. I went up there with Bill Herring and Mac and we saw a lot of alligators; I did but they would always be laying right up at the pond. They would drain the pond where they could cut the cross tide timber out of it. And gee there was a lot of alligators in there. I had seen several; you would see him and he would just draw his head back and go right back down in the cave. So this one particular hole was about as big. as that patio over there and there where just turtles, and catfish all over the place. Them catfish were sick working their heads like that. Gee, there is a lot of them in there and they look like a log laying there. I took a few more steps and when I did, he flounced and he knocked catfish and turtles. It was a big alligator and he just slapped them every which way. So these boys were over there and they had put this can of lye in this cave and they did not have any success; they did not run him out at all. So they went on to another cave, put the lye 2



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in it. They knew the alligator was in there because they seen him when he drove back, when he drove his head back and went back. So they went on over to another cave. Now this was all mud around there where we were walking, now you would bog up about a foot and half deep. So this alligator had come out of that cave and was trying to go to another and they met up with him but he was blind; he could not see where he was going. They shot him two or three times and they could get a hold of him but they could not pull him out of the cave on the wagon. He was a big one. They went back to the wagon and got a rope off the mule that was tied up there and went back there and hooked that rope to him and they pulled him out of that cave. P: How big was he? R: He was about nine feet long but he had a huge body on him. P: Yes, well the bigger they get, the wider their body is. R: Yes, and that is the only time that I ever seen them getting them, but they had a lot of ways of getting them. They had a hook that they would run down in the cave and if that gator ever grabbed the end of that pole, he would get that hook and then they would pull him out. There are not many alligators anymore, not around here. I guess that there are some places; I think there are quite a few of them down around Gainesville now, is there not? Q: Down at Silver Springs. P: In the lakes and down at Silver Springs there are a lot of them. Q: How long have you been in Gainesville? P: Only four years, 1979. I like it, it is beautiful down here. Every time I go home to New Jersey it gets harder and harder. I 3



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am always gladder to get back. Q: Are any of your family down here? P: I have been trying to talk them into it. Q: They will eventually. P: Eventually, yes. Q: They will like the warm climate. P: It is hard when you first come down here from the north because everything is so rushed up there and everything is slower down here. And they get upset because the traffic lights last too long for them; they want to be going all the time. I say, "Just sit back and relax." Q: They will learn to slow down a little bit. P: Now you get just as much accomplished whether you go slow or whether you go fast; sometimes I think more. Ray, around what year was that when you did the alligator hunting? R: Well, it was back in the late 1930s or early 1940s. P: Did people eat the meat then or were they selling them for the hides? R: No, we did not eat the meat. A lot of people did but I never have eaten any meat. The Everetts over here, well some of them killed one that was about four feet long and they carried the tail to the house and their mother cooked it. Reed Barnetty was there at that time, that is her son and his wife. So they cooked it and they were catching a lot of catfish out of the river so they just called it catfish and Reed ate quite a bit of it. After they got through eating they asked her how did she like the gator tail. She said, "I never eat no gator tail." "What you mean you eat no 4



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gator tail." Said, "You eat several pieces of it at noon." And boy she got mad as all get out. Q: What does it taste like? Chicken? R: They say it does. I have never eaten any. P: That is what I think too. I did talk to one person who used to hunt alligators and he said it tastes like chicken. R: I know my brother-in-law killed a big one in Loctahall. Well, he did not kill him plum dead, but he shot a box of twenty-two rifle cartridges in his head. The river went dry and he was in there and he found him and the water was about a foot over him. So he could not kill him with that twenty-two rifle and the water was going down so he come on home and told it. It was about two miles he had to walk and he told this old one eye Negro that I was telling you about who used to help with the dishes all at home. So he said, "Well we are going down there and skin that gator and sell his hide." So they went down there and Dan Larson was logging back there, cutting timber, and so they told him about it and he went back there. He cut out all of his tail it was everything he could do to carry it to the truck, but he got the whole tail. So Dan naturally skinned him and so a few days later Roy, the doctor's son, and Horten were down there at Dan's and went there to eat dinner and Dan called it mutton. Horten and Roy had both eaten some of it. After dinner they got through eating dinner and left, he said, "Roy, how did you like the gator tail?" He said, "What gator tail?" He said, "That meat we had at dinner." He said, "But I new damn well that was not no mutton, but I did not know what it was." He said, "It was good was it not?" He was a huge alligator there were two of them 5



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killed about a year later. One of the Newsome boys killed one of them. They where about eleven feet long but they had such a big body. P: Well, let me ask you now, did people eat gator much when you where little? R: Just the odd ones. P: It was not very common? R: No. P: When did they start killing them? R: I would say it was in the late 1930s, when any of them started eating them around here, but none of us never did eat any of it. P: Did they really start killing them because they where able to make money on the hide or did they start killing them for food? R: Well, mostly for the hide. That is around here, you know? P: That is what I thought. R: I know I found down here where the holding branch goes into the Suwannee, there was an alligator down there. We used to start to shoot mullet down there. The Suwannee, every four or five years it gets clear and the mullet run right up it then. And we were shooting mullet in there and we kind of honored that hole where that big alligator was at. Somebody killed him in later years, and they carried him up there to that holding branch to skin him. They skinned several and they just left them laying there on the ground. They never bothered none of them. I went back up there later and I do not know what become of them. I guess they are here somewhere. I got quite a few of the teeth; they pulled right out of the jaw bone and they where quite long. But that big 6



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fellow, two of the Newsome boys was up there hunting mullet and they found him asleep out on the bank. He was out way from the river; he was asleep. They did not have anything to shoot him with and Jim says, "I will tell you what I will do. I will light this piece of dynamite and drop it right through his head. So he got ready to shoot him and D.C. had left the matches in the truck; they did not have any matches so they had to go back to get the matches and when they come back the alligator was gone. P: Good. R: But somebody killed him in later years at the holding branch. P: One point for the alligator. R: He was a big fellow. I seen him several times laying right on the edge of the water. Q: What about the manatees? Are they trying to kill off all they can? P: Yes. I am working with the manatees; that is my job now, working with the manatees. Q: Really! P: Crystal River. But did people used to eat manatees? R: Yes. P: Around here? R: No. See it was too far away. The only guy I ever heard say anything about it was Waldo MacDaniel. P: They just do not look very tasty to me. The Indians used to eat the manatees too. Q: Well, if it was a matter of life or death it would definitely be different. R: He was net fishing and he run up on these guys that was butcher 7



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one. P: Where was this? R: This was down in Indian River; down there close to Vero. P: And when was it? R: That was back in the early 1940s. P: Right at the depression. R: Yes, and so he said before he knew anything he was looking right down a barrel of gun and the other guy says, "Lay it down." He says, "I do not know him, but I know his daddy. And he told me, he said, "Boy, you would not tell on nobody would you?" He says, "I do not know nothing to tell." He says, "You just keep it that way." And he started to push the boat back off with the oars and he said, "Just a minute, we will give you some of the meat." He said it just looked like a big hunk of red meat. And they gave it to him and he asked them what it was. And they told him never mind what it is; carry it home and cook it. And he said it was good. He said he ate it. His daddy knew what it was. He knew what it was. P: They are so neat. With my job I went swimming with them this year. And that was something to go swimming with those big creatures. Q: Oh, I bet. P: But they are real gentle. They do not hurt anyone. Q: Like a dolphin. R: You know, I never have got a real good look at one. Have you? P: I did then. Q: She went swimming with them she said. 8



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P: I went swimming with them this year, for my job. R: Yes. P: I work with them, and that is the first time I have had a closeup look because they where swimming right under me and eating the river grass. Their face looks a little like an elephant. R: Yes, it does. P: The whiskers that go all out right here and they have little eyes. Q: It is what they call a sea cow is it not? P: Yes. In fact, they are distantly related to the elephant. Very, very distantly, but I do not know. They are really neat animals. P: They will play, they will come up too; they want you to pet them. Q: Really. P: Some of them will want you to pet them. Q: I would love to see them. P: Next year. Q: Have they got hair or fur on them? P: They have little bits of hair because they are mammals; they have little bits of hair all over them. Bristles. R: The only one that I seen was off about twenty-five yards. I would say I was out on the dock there at that crab market at Vero. And this one come along and she had the baby with her. P: Vero Beach? R: So this one come along and she had the baby with her. The way she looked she looked like she was six, seven feet long or maybe longer and the little fellow was only about so long. And boy, he stayed right with his mama. Q: Have you ever seen a sea horse? 9



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P: Yes, I have, with the water management people. I went out when they were doing fish tows and we caught a sea horse in the estuary, a real little one. But that is the only time I have seen a live one was that one time. It was neat, and then they had that pike fish that is a sea horse out there and you would catch them alive, but they do not look like a sea horse but we caught one one time and the males give birth to the babies. Q: Really? P: And the male, we put them in a little jar to wait for measuring them, and then we put them back in. But he started giving birth to the little tiny, I mean they are just minuscule, like about half of a straight pin. Giving birth to little babies. Maybe he was upset or something. They have that little pouch and they just--but it was neat. Q: Oh, would that not be something to see? P: Yes, that was. Q: That is a once in a life time kind of thing. P: Yes, exactly. So I felt really lucky. R: You know, talking about giving birth, you know a minnow, an ordinary fish, well they lay eggs. But we have this minnow. Some call them dough gut and some call them pot gut. He is a little minnow. I have never seen one longer than that. P: Longer than what? Two inches or what? R: No, he is not even two inches. Well, their little ones is born. P: Oh really, live birth. R: Yes, and I seen Joe Gerry. He used to have them up there and when he had them in this aquarium there and he run in there and 10



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tell his mother, "Mother, Mother," he says, "I have got a bunch of little baby fish in there with my other fish," and so she went and there was no little baby fish. They looked all over and she said, "Well, Joe?" He says, "I know they were in there. It is that dang Hershel; she ate them. I am going to throw her out in the hot sand." She says, "No, now what a minute, Joe," she says, "You might have been seeing things." He says, "I was not seeing things. Them little fish were in there." And he says, "They are gone now and there is nothing else going to bother them." About that time there was some more born. Oh, it was just amazing to him and she ate them. She turned right around and ate them. P: I wonder if it is because they could not get away because they where in a little aquarium? R: Yes, and they where so small when they are first born; oh they are tiny. She ate them all and Joe wanted to throw her in the hot sand. He said, "She is accountable." Q: Is that a normal thing for a fish? P: No. R: Well, for them minnows now, that is not a fish. Well, he is a fish family but he is a minnow. We used to tie a worm on a string and throw it and they would hold on to the end of it and you would pull them out. P: Now they live in the river? R: Yes, and in the lake. Mostly in the lake; they stay right around the edge in shallow water all the time. P: Okay, I know what you mean. Yes, I think gambusia is what we might call them. 11



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R: Yes. P: I think that is the same thing. But what happens sometimes when you put an animal in captivity and they have a yearn or too many of them in a small place is that they will kill each other whereas in the wild they never would. So that might be what happened there or sometimes parents will eat their young like crawfish will do the same thing. If they have the babies and they are in a confined place. Q: So you have to be there to get them away from there as soon as they are born. P: Yes. R: There is a little fish, we call him a red eye. P: Yes, I know them. Q: Red eye. P: Spring chuck. R: Yes, I have never seen one. I never seen one is why I did three fingers. Maybe that wide and he always hangs around the edge too and he will find a lot of nice little holes to deposit his eggs in. I have not seen one in years. They disappeared around here. Q: Do you want me to call them again? P: I should check with Mary and see. R: I was fishing on the Suwannee, so I seen this little fish and I raked him out. Well, he was not that wide; he was about that wide. I raked him out and I looked at him and I put him back; he was sick. Something was wrong with him and so I went on up where my friend was fishing and I said, "Orley, you will never guess what I seen down there just now." He said, "What was that?" I 12



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said, "A red eye. I have not seen one in years." He said, "I do not think I have seen one in fifteen or twenty years." I said, "There is one having a fit now." And so we got him out so I told him, I said, "I do not know what happened but somebody has got to put something in the river." We did not see any big fish but it was baby fish that was doing it. Fish from that size down. P: That had disappeared? R: They where dieing and what had happened, they were turning water in that Hunter Creek out at the Prospect Church at the mine and that water from that mine was going in the river and it was killing them baby fish. But I corrected one thing the other day. You know the willow, and they are about the thing of the past on the Suwannee River, they are pretty near all gone. P: The willows? R: Yes, they died. P: The birds? R: No, the willow tree. P: Oh, okay. The willows, yes. R: Yes, and so I thought it was that chemical from the mine that was killing them. But I was mistaken because out there at Eagle Lake there are all kind of chemicals out there at that mine in them holding pits. Evidently you know out there at that mine. I do not know, they are really going to mess up Suwannee River. P: Is that how you feel? R: Yea. P: That is how I feel too. R: A friend of mine, he was telling about catching catfish out there. He said he caught seven hundred in one week out there. 13



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And I asked him where he caught them at. He told me and so yesterday a week ago Slim and myself, we went out there. We went to one place there, you know, and fishing. There was a man and his wife there. I said, "What is that on the shore around the edge of the water there?" He said, "I do not know. Why?" I said, "It looks like sulfur. It looks like some kind of chemical." I said, "You have any luck?" He said, "We caught two." Well, I seen them on the string there in the water. So we knew we were at the wrong place with sulfur water. So this black boy, he come along and I said, "I had a friend that told me in the back of the chemical plant there was a lake and he said it was full of catfish." And he had some big ones and I said, "Can you tell us," and he went to telling us and I said, "Well, we will not be able to find that if you do not mark it off because there are hundreds of lakes out there and you get lost easy." So he said, "I will tell you; follow me and I will show you." He was driving off with that old pick up, but we followed him. We went on in there and he said, "Now it is this chain of lakes right on around here." I said, "People eat the fish they catch out of this here?" He said, "Yes, sir." I said, "Well, I do not want them fish do you?" He said, "I sure do not." He said, "Where are we going?" I said, "Let us go to Eagle Lake." I said, "That water is good, Eagle Lake." So we went up there, and these blacks come along and I asked him was there danger of getting bogged up going to Eagle Lake? He said, "Not there. Just follow me; that is where we are going." So we followed him and we went all around to Eagle Lake and caught a good mess of fish 14



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there at Eagle Lake. But that was some bad water in there around that plant. M: I would not want to eat the fish out of that water. P: I sure would not, I have been up there and been around and it just does not look right to me either. R: You know these little potholes around, well, we used to catch fish back years ago and eat the fish out of them. These little lakes, a half acre and a quarter acre, and Orley says we got to knowing too much about a fish. Now if we catch them, we give them to somebody. We do not eat them. Mostly out of the river is where we get what fish we eat. P: Now the cypress ponds--you used to go fishing there too, right? R: Yes. P: But you do not do that anymore, right? R: That is right. P: And why not? R: I will tell you where there is a pretty lake and it is pretty water. I have never fished. In fact I had never seen it till last year. I was hunting at Bell and this guy up off of Cat Creek Road, he told us that there was a guy over at Lakeland by the name of Corbett, that he had several. Well, we went over there but they was all small bass and they did not rain good either. So we went to Banks Lake right beside the highway there and the water was just a cypress pond and the water just clear and pretty as you ever seen. We just happened up at the right time--there were two young lads coming out of there and they had their two strings of bass. When I was beside him I said, "Pull that bag down and let us look at the bass." Well the biggest one 15



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they had was about three pounds, but they were really pretty and they where fat fish. And that water, well I am sure you could see a fish eight feet deep in it and I told them, I said, "The water is sure pretty and clear." And he said, "That is the trouble; it is too clear." He says, "Early every morning and late every evening is about the only time you can do good in it." P: Yes, because they see you. R: Yes. P: Well, are there as many fish in the cypress ponds now? R: Well, no, there are not because the majority of the cypress ponds has been the timber company, has drained them out. Where they can grow timber right up to the pond and some of them in the pond. P: Do you think like Ray Morgan thinks that the fish used to breed in there? That when the river would rise, that the fish would go into the cypress ponds? R: Yes, and they would raise in there and then when the river would come back up they would stock the river. They would drive them ponds into it. Several years back, I cannot recall what year it was but it was in the 1950s, early 1950s, the Suwannee River got high and it was in the spring. That is when them war mouth perch, they seemed to want to move in the spring, and the Suwannee River got full of them. Especially up here by Mill's Creek and Pond's Creek up there and well, there were just dozens and dozens of people catching them just as fast as they could snatch them out. And they where great big war mouth and we often wondered where in the world did they come from, that many. Did 16



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they come out of the Okefenokee Swamp or did they come out of them cypress ponds that was trapped back. Like you say, that is the way them pikes would be. They said pike would leave for seven years and then they would show up. Well, that was pretty well true here for this old mill pond down here. When it would get high, you could just catch pike just as fast as you could snatch them out--anywhere up and down the creek and you did not have to have bait. You could just take a piece of good strong white cloth about as big as your little finger and hook in the ends of it and he would catch it in his teeth. He has got teeth just like the jack fish and you snatch him out; you had to be quick. You would snatch him out and you would not have to take him off the hook. P: That is great. R: When I was fishing below the fall down here on the creek I caught several pike. And one cut my hook off and I did not carry no hooks with me. I said, "Well, gee whiz, that water hole is full of fish." The hole was not about as big as that patio, a little bigger, but the creek was running right through it and they come back for that fall and they could not get over. So I come back to the house and got me another hook. Got me a box of hooks and went back. So when I got back there on that sand there where I left my--I just left my fish laying there. When I got back there, there was pike about that long laying there and I looked at him and I said, "Gee whiz!" I said, "Snakes had a hold of that fish, decided to swallow him." The scale looked like it was about wallowed off of him, you know, and he looked all white looking and funny. So when I started to 17



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string him up, I picked up two more pike and when I started to stick the string through the gill, the tails of other pike was sticking out their mouth. P: Gee. R: They are readily cannibals; they will eat each other. You take one that long, he will catch a little pike that long. P: And they eat each other. R: And he will swallow him too. So that wound up the pike eating. They smelled awful and I told Quinn I said, "They are not fitting to eat." I said, "They catch them fish and then they digest them there and they smell awful." So we did not eat the fish. But they sure will; they will catch one. The funnier thing as I ever seen down on the creek is a big bass that run out of pond on Downin. Yes, he was down there too and he could not get back over the bog. Well, there were two or three of them and there was this one pike in there, and he was not over that long, and this bass was stalking him trying to catch him. P: The pike was about twelve inches long. R: Yes, or hardly that long and this bass was stalking trying to catch him, all right there was a little sand bar run out in that hole and over back of it the water was shallow and I could see the bottom all there, the water was red but you could see the bottom. You would see that little pike coming; you would see that bass right behind him eight, ten feet back. He was following him and when they would get to this little sand bar, he had him cornered. There was no way he could go back unless he went by that bass. He had jumped that sand bar, that little pike would, 18



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and it was about that wide and sometimes he would hit right on the edge of the sand and have to wiggle to get back in the water. That old bass would turn right around and go around over there and he go to stalking him again. I watched that three or four times and I said, "Well, I am going to eat him for dinner." P: The bass? R: Yes, I come to the house and I got the rifle and I told Quinn I said, "There is a big bass in that holding creek down there below the bog." I said "Let us go down there and get him." So about the time we got there an old friend of mine, Mr. Nickels, come up and he said, "Ray, I see two bass out there." I said, "Well, I have not seen but one." I said, "The one I have been looking at weighed about six pounds." He says, "Well, there are two out there." But I never did see the other one. I tried to get him to shoot him with a rifle; he was afraid he would miss him. But he come on up and I put a bullet through his head. He come on and eat dinner with us; I butcher him and we had him for dinner. P: That is great. R: We got several big ones. I found one in the creek down there that weighed eight and a half pounds. Well, he looked bigger, you know, in a small body of water that away. Gee, that bass looked--I was sure he would weigh twelve pounds or more. And I found him one afternoon and I tried to catch him. I tried everything in the book and I even caught a little bass out of the creek about that long. I said, "That just might be what he would bite." So I put that out there and he just come up there and he nuzzled all around that little bass; he was wanting to spawn. He would lay kind of up on his side. Here I could have killed him 19



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with a sling shot but I did not have nothing. It was too late to come to the house to get the gun because I was walking back there. I told Quinn I got to turn water in the mill pond in the morning and the creek; we have got to start watering the tobacco. I said, "I am going to kill that big fellow before that water gets there." It took the water about an hour and half to get down there. Just at day light I went and turned the water in there and I went down there and I watched and I watched and I watched, and just as the water started pouring in that hole I seen him. He was right down there all the time but I was just overlooking him. Well, there was another one there too--a male and female--I killed them both. But he weighed eight and a half pounds. If I had missed him, I would have swore he weighed twelve pounds. P: Gee, that is something. R: She is getting some pictures of the swing. P: The swing set. Well, I better quit this tape; it is getting late. I love that swing. That is nice. 20


Ray Roebuck
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Title: Ray Roebuck
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Publication Date: 1983
Copyright Date: 1983
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P: Okay, you were going to tell me a story about alligator country?
R: Yes, see they way they do it, they would take a can of lye, or red
devil we called it. I guess you know what it is in a can.
P: Red devil lye?
R: Yes.
P: I am sure.
R: It was something like Draino anyway. And so they would put it on
a long pole and drive a bunch of holes in that can and wire it to
a pole and run it down in this gator cave. They would work it up
and down in that gator. That would get that lye in there and
when it would, well that alligator could not stand it with his
eyes and he would come out. So they told this guy, it was, Sam
Downin who it was, and so Ark the Hark Marlow, he was some
relative, he would get a lot of alligators and at that particular
time they where getting a good price for them. But Hark would go
in there and he would grunt him up and he would come up and he
just catches the end of his nose and hold it together and kill
him with a hatchet.
P: You mean he would call him up by making the noise.
R: You know how one goes.
P: Did you ever do that?
R: What?
P: Did you ever hunt them?
R: No, only this one time and I just went with these guys.
They told Sam how to do it with that can of lye so he went and
got him a pole and he got up there and he stood there a long
time to the side doing it. He got tired with it and so he turned
his back to the hole. He was working that can of lye up and down
1





there and that alligator come out of there. Well, it was just
burning his eyes up. He come up right between his legs a
flopping and a flapping and knocked him down and every time he
got up the alligator would run over him. He thought the alligator
was trying to catch him. The alligator could not see; he was
trying to get away. Oh, gee he got mad.
P: Was he on a tussock when he was doing that?
R: Yes, in a cave. They would work up this mud, they would go in
these caves right at the east tussock and they go back in them cave
and they come and lay their eggs on these tussocks. They would
build a great high mound on this tussock and that is where they
would lay their eggs. I went up there with Bill Herring and Mac
and we saw a lot of alligators; I did but they would always be
laying right up at the pond. They would drain the pond where
they could cut the cross tide timber out of it. And gee there was
a lot of alligators in there. I had seen several; you would
see him and he would just draw his head back and go right back
down in the cave. So this one particular hole was about as big.
as that patio over there and there where just turtles, and
catfish all over the place. Them catfish were sick working
their heads like that. Gee, there is a lot of them in there
and they look like a log laying there. I took a few more steps
and when I did, he flounced and he knocked catfish and turtles.
It was a big alligator and he just slapped them every which way.
So these boys were over there and they had put this can of lye
in this cave and they did not have any success; they did not run
him out at all. So they went on to another cave, put the lye
2





in it. They knew the alligator was in there because they seen
him when he drove back, when he drove his head back and went
back. So they went on over to another cave. Now this was all
mud around there where we were walking, now you would bog up
about a foot and half deep. So this alligator had come out of
that cave and was trying to go to another and they met up with
him but he was blind; he could not see where he was going. They
shot him two or three times and they could get a hold of him but
they could not pull him out of the cave on the wagon. He was a
big one. They went back to the wagon and got a rope off the mule
that was tied up there and went back there and hooked that rope
to him and they pulled him out of that cave.
P: How big was he?
R: He was about nine feet long but he had a huge body on him.
P: Yes, well the bigger they get, the wider their body is.
R: Yes, and that is the only time that I ever seen them getting
them, but they had a lot of ways of getting them. They had a
hook that they would run down in the cave and if that gator ever
grabbed the end of that pole, he would get that hook and then they
would pull him out. There are not many alligators anymore, not
around here. I guess that there are some places; I think there
are quite a few of them down around Gainesville now, is there
not?
Q: Down at Silver Springs.
P: In the lakes and down at Silver Springs there are a lot of them.
Q: How long have you been in Gainesville?
P: Only four years, 1979. I like it, it is beautiful down here.
Every time I go home to New Jersey it gets harder and harder. I
3





am always gladder to get back.
Q: Are any of your family down here?
P: I have been trying to talk them into it.
Q: They will eventually.
P: Eventually, yes.
Q: They will like the warm climate.
P: It is hard when you first come down here from the north because
everything is so rushed up there and everything is slower down
here. And they get upset because the traffic lights last too
long for them; they want to be going all the time. I say, "Just
sit back and relax."
Q: They will learn to slow down a little bit.
P: Now you get just as much accomplished whether you go slow or
whether you go fast; sometimes I think more. Ray, around what
year was that when you did the alligator hunting?
R: Well, it was back in the late 1930s or early 1940s.
P: Did people eat the meat then or were they selling them for the
hides?
R: No, we did not eat the meat. A lot of people did but I never have
eaten any meat. The Everetts over here, well some of them killed
one that was about four feet long and they carried the tail to
the house and their mother cooked it. Reed Barnetty was there at
that time, that is her son and his wife. So they cooked it and
they were catching a lot of catfish out of the river so they just
called it catfish and Reed ate quite a bit of it. After they got
through eating they asked her how did she like the gator tail.
She said, "I never eat no gator tail." "What you mean you eat no
4





gator tail." Said, "You eat several pieces of it at noon." And
boy she got mad as all get out.
Q: What does it taste like? Chicken?
R: They say it does. I have never eaten any.
P: That is what I think too. I did talk to one person who used to
hunt alligators and he said it tastes like chicken.
R: I know my brother-in-law killed a big one in Loctahall. Well, he
did not kill him plum dead, but he shot a box of twenty-two rifle
cartridges in his head. The river went dry and he was in there
and he found him and the water was about a foot over him. So he
could not kill him with that twenty-two rifle and the water was
going down so he come on home and told it. It was about two
miles he had to walk and he told this old one eye Negro that I
was telling you about who used to help with the dishes all at
home. So he said, "Well we are going down there and skin that
gator and sell his hide." So they went down there and Dan
Larson was logging back there, cutting timber, and so they told
him about it and he went back there. He cut out all of his tail
it was everything he could do to carry it to the truck, but he
got the whole tail. So Dan naturally skinned him and so a
few days later Roy, the doctor's son, and Horten were down there
at Dan's and went there to eat dinner and Dan called it mutton.
Horten and Roy had both eaten some of it. After dinner they got
through eating dinner and left, he said, "Roy, how did you like
the gator tail?" He said, "What gator tail?" He said, "That
meat we had at dinner." He said, "But I new damn well that was
not no mutton, but I did not know what it was." He said, "It was
good was it not?" He was a huge alligator there were two of them
5





killed about a year later. One of the Newsome boys killed one of
them. They where about eleven feet long but they had such a big
body.
P: Well, let me ask you now, did people eat gator much when you
where little?
R: Just the odd ones.
P: It was not very common?
R: No.
P: When did they start killing them?
R: I would say it was in the late 1930s, when any of them started
eating them around here, but none of us never did eat any of it.
P: Did they really start killing them because they where able to
make money on the hide or did they start killing them for food?
R: Well, mostly for the hide. That is around here, you know?
P: That is what I thought.
R: I know I found down here where the holding branch goes into the
Suwannee, there was an alligator down there. We used to start to
shoot mullet down there. The Suwannee, every four or five years
it gets clear and the mullet run right up it then. And we were
shooting mullet in there and we kind of honored that hole where
that big alligator was at. Somebody killed him in later years,
and they carried him up there to that holding branch to skin him.
They skinned several and they just left them laying there on the
ground. They never bothered none of them. I went back up there
later and I do not know what become of them. I guess they are
here somewhere. I got quite a few of the teeth; they pulled right
out of the jaw bone and they where quite long. But that big
6





fellow, two of the Newsome boys was up there hunting mullet and
they found him asleep out on the bank. He was out way from the
river; he was asleep. They did not have anything to shoot him
with and Jim says, "I will tell you what I will do. I will light
this piece of dynamite and drop it right through his head. So he
got ready to shoot him and D.C. had left the matches in the
truck; they did not have any matches so they had to go back to
get the matches and when they come back the alligator was gone.
P: Good.
R: But somebody killed him in later years at the holding branch.
P: One point for the alligator.
R: He was a big fellow. I seen him several times laying right on
the edge of the water.
Q: What about the manatees? Are they trying to kill off all they
can?
P: Yes. I am working with the manatees; that is my job now, working
with the manatees.
Q: Really!
P: Crystal River. But did people used to eat manatees?
R: Yes.
P: Around here?
R: No. See it was too far away. The only guy I ever heard say
anything about it was Waldo MacDaniel.
P: They just do not look very tasty to me. The Indians used to eat
the manatees too.
Q: Well, if it was a matter of life or death it would definitely be
different.
R: He was net fishing and he run up on these guys that was butcher
7





one.
P: Where was this?
R: This was down in Indian River; down there close to Vero.
P: And when was it?
R: That was back in the early 1940s.
P: Right at the depression.
R: Yes, and so he said before he knew anything he was looking right
down a barrel of gun and the other guy says, "Lay it down." He
says, "I do not know him, but I know his daddy. And he told me, he
said, "Boy, you would not tell on nobody would you?" He says, "I
do not know nothing to tell." He says, "You just keep it that
way." And he started to push the boat back off with the oars and
he said, "Just a minute, we will give you some of the meat." He
said it just looked like a big hunk of red meat. And they
gave it to him and he asked them what it was. And
they told him never mind what it is; carry it home and cook it.
And he said it was good. He said he ate it. His daddy knew what
it was. He knew what it was.
P: They are so neat. With my job I went swimming with them this
year. And that was something to go swimming with those big
creatures.
Q: Oh, I bet.
P: But they are real gentle. They do not hurt anyone.
Q: Like a dolphin.
R: You know, I never have got a real good look at one. Have you?
P: I did then.
Q: She went swimming with them she said.
8





P: I went swimming with them this year, for my job.
R: Yes.
P: I work with them, and that is the first time I have had a close-
up look because they where swimming right under me and eating the
river grass. Their face looks a little like an elephant.
R: Yes, it does.
P: The whiskers that go all out right here and they have little
eyes.
Q: It is what they call a sea cow is it not?
P: Yes. In fact, they are distantly related to the elephant. Very,
very distantly, but I do not know. They are really neat animals.
P: They will play, they will come up too; they want you to pet them.
Q: Really.
P: Some of them will want you to pet them.
Q: I would love to see them.
P: Next year.
Q: Have they got hair or fur on them?
P: They have little bits of hair because they are mammals; they have
little bits of hair all over them. Bristles.
R: The only one that I seen was off about twenty-five yards. I
would say I was out on the dock there at that crab market at
Vero. And this one come along and she had the baby with her.
P: Vero Beach?
R: So this one come along and she had the baby with her. The way
she looked she looked like she was six, seven feet long or maybe
longer and the little fellow was only about so long. And boy, he
stayed right with his mama.
Q: Have you ever seen a sea horse?
9





P: Yes, I have, with the water management people. I went out when
they were doing fish tows and we caught a sea horse in the
estuary, a real little one. But that is the only time I have
seen a live one was that one time. It was neat, and then they
had that pike fish that is a sea horse out there and you would
catch them alive, but they do not look like a sea horse but we
caught one one time and the males give birth to the babies.
Q: Really?
P: And the male, we put them in a little jar to wait for measuring
them, and then we put them back in. But he started giving birth
to the little tiny, I mean they are just minuscule, like about
half of a straight pin. Giving birth to little babies. Maybe he
was upset or something. They have that little pouch and they
just--but it was neat.
Q: Oh, would that not be something to see?
P: Yes, that was.
Q: That is a once in a life time kind of thing.
P: Yes, exactly. So I felt really lucky.
R: You know, talking about giving birth, you know a minnow, an
ordinary fish, well they lay eggs. But we have this minnow.
Some call them dough gut and some call them pot gut. He is a
little minnow. I have never seen one longer than that.
P: Longer than what? Two inches or what?
R: No, he is not even two inches. Well, their little ones is born.
P: Oh really, live birth.
R: Yes, and I seen Joe Gerry. He used to have them up there and
when he had them in this aquarium there and he run in there and
10





tell his mother, "Mother, Mother," he says, "I have got a bunch
of little baby fish in there with my other fish," and so she went
and there was no little baby fish. They looked all over and
she said, "Well, Joe?" He says, "I know they were in there. It is
that dang Hershel; she ate them. I am going to throw her out
in the hot sand." She says, "No, now what a minute, Joe," she
says, "You might have been seeing things." He says, "I was not
seeing things. Them little fish were in there." And he says,
"They are gone now and there is nothing else going to bother
them." About that time there was some more born. Oh, it was
just amazing to him and she ate them. She turned right around and
ate them.
P: I wonder if it is because they could not get away because they
where in a little aquarium?
R: Yes, and they where so small when they are first born; oh they
are tiny. She ate them all and Joe wanted to throw her in the
hot sand. He said, "She is accountable."
Q: Is that a normal thing for a fish?
P: No.
R: Well, for them minnows now, that is not a fish. Well, he is a fish
family but he is a minnow. We used to tie a worm on a string and
throw it and they would hold on to the end of it and you would
pull them out.
P: Now they live in the river?
R: Yes, and in the lake. Mostly in the lake; they stay right around
the edge in shallow water all the time.
P: Okay, I know what you mean. Yes, I think gambusia is what we
might call them.
11





R: Yes.
P: I think that is the same thing. But what happens sometimes when
you put an animal in captivity and they have a yearn or too
many of them in a small place is that they will kill each other
whereas in the wild they never would. So that might be what
happened there or sometimes parents will eat their young like
crawfish will do the same thing. If they have the babies and
they are in a confined place.
Q: So you have to be there to get them away from there as soon as
they are born.
P: Yes.
R: There is a little fish, we call him a red eye.
P: Yes, I know them.
Q: Red eye.
P: Spring chuck.
R: Yes, I have never seen one. I never seen one is why I did three
fingers. Maybe that wide and he always hangs around the edge too
and he will find a lot of nice little holes to deposit his eggs
in. I have not seen one in years. They disappeared around here.
Q: Do you want me to call them again?
P: I should check with Mary and see.
R: I was fishing on the Suwannee, so I seen this little fish and I
raked him out. Well, he was not that wide; he was about that
wide. I raked him out and I looked at him and I put him back; he
was sick. Something was wrong with him and so I went on up where
my friend was fishing and I said, "Orley, you will never guess
what I seen down there just now." He said, "What was that?" I
12





said, "A red eye. I have not seen one in years." He said, "I do
not think I have seen one in fifteen or twenty years." I said,
"There is one having a fit now." And so we got him out so I told
him, I said, "I do not know what happened but somebody has got to
put something in the river." We did not see any big fish but it
was baby fish that was doing it. Fish from that size down.
P: That had disappeared?
R: They where dieing and what had happened, they were turning water
in that Hunter Creek out at the Prospect Church at the mine and
that water from that mine was going in the river and it was
killing them baby fish. But I corrected one thing the other day.
You know the willow, and they are about the thing of the past on
the Suwannee River, they are pretty near all gone.
P: The willows?
R: Yes, they died.
P: The birds?
R: No, the willow tree.
P: Oh, okay. The willows, yes.
R: Yes, and so I thought it was that chemical from the mine that was
killing them. But I was mistaken because out there at Eagle Lake
there are all kind of chemicals out there at that mine in them
holding pits. Evidently you know out there at that mine. I do
not know, they are really going to mess up Suwannee River.
P: Is that how you feel?
R: Yea.
P: That is how I feel too.
R: A friend of mine, he was telling about catching catfish out
there. He said he caught seven hundred in one week out there.
13





And I asked him where he caught them at. He told me and so
yesterday a week ago Slim and myself, we went out there. We went
to one place there, you know, and fishing. There was a man and
his wife there. I said, "What is that on the shore around the
edge of the water there?" He said, "I do not know. Why?" I
said, "It looks like sulfur. It looks like some kind of
chemical." I said, "You have any luck?" He said, "We caught
two." Well, I seen them on the string there in the water. So we
knew we were at the wrong place with sulfur water. So this
black boy, he come along and I said, "I had a friend that told me
in the back of the chemical plant there was a lake and he said it
was full of catfish." And he had some big ones and I said, "Can
you tell us," and he went to telling us and I said, "Well, we
will not be able to find that if you do not mark it off because
there are hundreds of lakes out there and you get lost easy." So
he said, "I will tell you; follow me and I will show you." He
was driving off with that old pick up, but we followed him. We
went on in there and he said, "Now it is this chain of lakes
right on around here." I said, "People eat the fish they catch
out of this here?" He said, "Yes, sir." I said, "Well, I do not
want them fish do you?" He said, "I sure do not." He said,
"Where are we going?" I said, "Let us go to Eagle Lake." I said,
"That water is good, Eagle Lake." So we went up there, and
these blacks come along and I asked him was there danger of
getting bogged up going to Eagle Lake? He said, "Not there. Just
follow me; that is where we are going." So we followed him and
we went all around to Eagle Lake and caught a good mess of fish
14





there at Eagle Lake. But that was some bad water in there around
that plant.
M: I would not want to eat the fish out of that water.
P: I sure would not, I have been up there and been around and it
just does not look right to me either.
R: You know these little potholes around, well, we used to catch
fish back years ago and eat the fish out of them. These little
lakes, a half acre and a quarter acre, and Orley says we got to
knowing too much about a fish. Now if we catch them, we give
them to somebody. We do not eat them. Mostly out of the river
is where we get what fish we eat.
P: Now the cypress ponds--you used to go fishing there too, right?
R: Yes.
P: But you do not do that anymore, right?
R: That is right.
P: And why not?
R: I will tell you where there is a pretty lake and it is pretty
water. I have never fished. In fact I had never seen it till
last year. I was hunting at Bell and this guy up off of Cat
Creek Road, he told us that there was a guy over at Lakeland by
the name of Corbett, that he had several. Well, we went over
there but they was all small bass and they did not rain good
either. So we went to Banks Lake right beside the highway there
and the water was just a cypress pond and the water just clear
and pretty as you ever seen. We just happened up at the right
time--there were two young lads coming out of there and they had
their two strings of bass. When I was beside him I said, "Pull
that bag down and let us look at the bass." Well the biggest one
15





they had was about three pounds, but they were really pretty and
they where fat fish. And that water, well I am sure you could see
a fish eight feet deep in it and I told them, I said, "The water
is sure pretty and clear." And he said, "That is the trouble; it
is too clear." He says, "Early every morning and late every
evening is about the only time you can do good in it."
P: Yes, because they see you.
R: Yes.
P: Well, are there as many fish in the cypress ponds now?
R: Well, no, there are not because the majority of the cypress ponds
has been the timber company, has drained them out. Where they
can grow timber right up to the pond and some of them in the
pond.
P: Do you think like Ray Morgan thinks that the fish used to breed
in there? That when the river would rise, that the fish would go
into the cypress ponds?
R: Yes, and they would raise in there and then when the river would
come back up they would stock the river. They would drive them
ponds into it. Several years back, I cannot recall what year
it was but it was in the 1950s, early 1950s, the Suwannee
River got high and it was in the spring. That is when them war
mouth perch, they seemed to want to move in the spring, and the
Suwannee River got full of them. Especially up here by Mill's
Creek and Pond's Creek up there and well, there were just dozens
and dozens of people catching them just as fast as they could
snatch them out. And they where great big war mouth and we often
wondered where in the world did they come from, that many. Did
16





they come out of the Okefenokee Swamp or did they come out of
them cypress ponds that was trapped back. Like you say, that is
the way them pikes would be. They said pike would leave for
seven years and then they would show up. Well, that was pretty
well true here for this old mill pond down here. When it
would get high, you could just catch pike just as fast as you
could snatch them out--anywhere up and down the creek and you did
not have to have bait. You could just take a piece of good
strong white cloth about as big as your little finger and hook in
the ends of it and he would catch it in his teeth. He has got
teeth just like the jack fish and you snatch him out; you had to
be quick. You would snatch him out and you would not have to
take him off the hook.
P: That is great.
R: When I was fishing below the fall down here on the creek I
caught several pike. And one cut my hook off and I did
not carry no hooks with me. I said, "Well, gee whiz, that water
hole is full of fish." The hole was not about as big as that
patio, a little bigger, but the creek was running right through
it and they come back for that fall and they could not get over.
So I come back to the house and got me another hook. Got me
a box of hooks and went back. So when I got back there on that
sand there where I left my--I just left my fish laying there.
When I got back there, there was pike about that long laying
there and I looked at him and I said, "Gee whiz!" I said,
"Snakes had a hold of that fish, decided to swallow him." The
scale looked like it was about wallowed off of him, you know, and
he looked all white looking and funny. So when I started to
17





string him up, I picked up two more pike and when I started to
stick the string through the gill, the tails of other pike was
sticking out their mouth.
P: Gee.
R: They are readily cannibals; they will eat each other. You take one
that long, he will catch a little pike that long.
P: And they eat each other.
R: And he will swallow him too. So that wound up the pike eating.
They smelled awful and I told Quinn I said, "They
are not fitting to eat." I said, "They catch them fish and then
they digest them there and they smell awful." So we did not eat
the fish. But they sure will; they will catch one. The funnier
thing as I ever seen down on the creek is a big bass that run out
of pond on Downin. Yes, he was down there too and he could not
get back over the bog. Well, there were two or three of them and
there was this one pike in there, and he was not over that long,
and this bass was stalking him trying to catch him.
P: The pike was about twelve inches long.
R: Yes, or hardly that long and this bass was stalking trying to
catch him, all right there was a little sand bar run out in that
hole and over back of it the water was shallow and I could see
the bottom all there, the water was red but you could see the
bottom. You would see that little pike coming; you would see that
bass right behind him eight, ten feet back. He was following him
and when they would get to this little sand bar, he had him
cornered. There was no way he could go back unless he went by
that bass. He had jumped that sand bar, that little pike would,
18





and it was about that wide and sometimes he would hit right on
the edge of the sand and have to wiggle to get back in the water.
That old bass would turn right around and go around over there
and he go to stalking him again. I watched that three or four
times and I said, "Well, I am going to eat him for dinner."
P: The bass?
R: Yes, I come to the house and I got the rifle and I told Quinn I
said, "There is a big bass in that holding creek down there below
the bog." I said "Let us go down there and get him." So about
the time we got there an old friend of mine, Mr. Nickels, come up
and he said, "Ray, I see two bass out there." I said, "Well, I
have not seen but one." I said, "The one I have been looking at
weighed about six pounds." He says, "Well, there are two out
there." But I never did see the other one. I tried to get him to
shoot him with a rifle; he was afraid he would miss him. But he
come on up and I put a bullet through his head. He come on and
eat dinner with us; I butcher him and we had him for dinner.
P: That is great.
R: We got several big ones. I found one in the creek down there
that weighed eight and a half pounds. Well, he looked bigger,
you know, in a small body of water that away. Gee, that bass
looked--I was sure he would weigh twelve pounds or more. And I
found him one afternoon and I tried to catch him. I tried
everything in the book and I even caught a little bass out of the
creek about that long. I said, "That just might be what he would
bite." So I put that out there and he just come up there and he
nuzzled all around that little bass; he was wanting to spawn. He
would lay kind of up on his side. Here I could have killed him
19





with a sling shot but I did not have nothing. It was too late to
come to the house to get the gun because I was walking back
there. I told Quinn I got to turn water in the mill pond in the
morning and the creek; we have got to start watering the tobacco.
I said, "I am going to kill that big fellow before that water
gets there." It took the water about an hour and half to get
down there. Just at day light I went and turned the water in
there and I went down there and I watched and I watched and I
watched, and just as the water started pouring in that hole I
seen him. He was right down there all the time but I was just
overlooking him. Well, there was another one there too--a male
and female--I killed them both. But he weighed eight and a half
pounds. If I had missed him, I would have swore he weighed
twelve pounds.
P: Gee, that is something.
R: She is getting some pictures of the swing.
P: The swing set. Well, I better quit this tape; it is getting late.
I love that swing. That is nice.
20





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