“Sometimes you eat the bar and sometimes the bar eats you.” Daniel Boone said that. Even Daniel spelled 'em like he seen 'em.
Armed with that little piece of what can only be described as "Redneck wisdom," we decided to take a trip to the Everglades on Memorial Day.
Our intended destination was Cooperstown Airboat Tours. I could hardly believe it was only 12 miles from our home in Miami. There is something unsettling about a city of 5.5 million and a swamp with over a million alligators and 300,000 pythons, sharing the same zip code.
Like me, you probably imagined that that only happened in Africa, Asia or South America. Wrong.
Mama Elena, my mother-in-law, was to accompany us on the trip. In her late 70s, her only fear was the sunshine we’d encounter. As we pulled from our driveway, Mary Carmen started the song and dance necessary to pry the information needed from the dreaded GPS.
She entered the address, and it asked the following question: "Why?"
She tried again; it asked: "Where?"
On the third try, it asked: "Why would you want to?"
Don’t you hate a GPS with an attitude? I do. And there are two things I’m not interested in when heading out into a swamp full of critters higher on the food chain than I am.
I want a nice, polite GPS, and more importantly an extremely well-behaved boat.
I don’t want to be goin' off into what amounts to the largest side salad in the world with a boat that was born and raised up north.
We arrived without the help of the GPS; wait, let’s give this dude a southern name. We arrived without the help of Gomer Pointing South, and soon piled onto a big fat airboat.
For those of you who don’t know what an airboat is, it’s an airplane in drag as a boat. It skims rapidly across the water and is only a thin piece of metal which separates you from being who you are or being a T-bone with a Ceasar salad.
I imagine it was invented by a country boy who found a crashed airplane while hunting in the swamp, because we know a country boy can make anything out of bailing wire and duct tape.
Adding a mangled airplane to his repertoire is like adding gravy to potatoes. There would have been no one there to claim the plane as they would have already been on the wrong end of a candlelight dinner. Crashing your plane and ending up as supper on the same day just don’t sound fun.
Once upon a time, a Japanese Redneck with a hangover knocked over a Suzuki motorcycle on the assembly line. To cover his mistake, he added two extra tires, and the Suzuki automobile was born.
Same thing with the airboat, it’s simply astounding what a redneck can do with a boat, a twisted up airplane and a few cases of beer. Bill Clinton was president. Need I say more?
Soon we sat in the boat and stared into the eerie eyes of a gator. It appeared glad we had arrived. The salad was already prepared; all the gator needed was for one of us to fall in. Mama wasn’t too concerned. After all she would only be a ribeye steak, Mary Carmen would only be prime rib. But me, I’m a whole rump roast, complete with potatoes and carrots.
Everyone knew I was the preferred meal and were properly relieved or terrified by that information.
We did survive and made it back. We then sat down to lunch at the Cooperstown restaurant. What did we have? You guessed it, gator stew and frog legs.
OK, I must admit it. If no one had told me, I’d have thought the frog legs were the legs of malnourished chickens. Contrary to popular belief, the gator tasted nothing like chicken, but was more akin to redneck lobster.
Maybe I should start a restaurant chain named Gator Gumps. On the sign would be a gator with a piece of grass in its mouth. He’d be wearing a straw hat and overalls while drinking a beer. He’d be cooking on a grill made from a piano, a satellite dish and a 1976 Pinto.
I sat there eating gator stew and being quite pleased with my place at the table. I couldn’t help but wonder if it had come down in the gator's favor, would I have tasted like chicken?
Sometimes you eat the gator, sometimes the gator eats you. Sometimes the boat’s a boat, sometimes it’s a plane, and other times it’s both and dances to "It’s Raining Men,'' by The Weather Girls.
Thanks to all the Veterans out there. America would not be what it is without you.