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Wednesday, November 11, 2009 • Posted November 11, 2009

Last week’s column was about a hunter in New Hampshire who managed to shoot himself in the hand while pulling his muzzleloading rifle up a tree with a rope. In that column I indicated that the hunter, one Robert Lapointe, had expired as a result of his wound. I would like to lapointe out here that he did not exactly die so much as survive. Which is fortunate for Robert, but not necessarily for me, in the event he decides to sue me for something or other.

But the main lapointe is that, to date, no one has lapointed out my mistake, at least to me. In as much as there are three possible reasons for this, I choose not to believe the reason no one complained is because no one reads my column, or because no one noticed the error. I choose to believe there were no complaints because my readers are too nice to write and tell me I’m an idiot. I say this even though I have gotten quite a few letters during the past 12 years saying, in effect, that I am an idiot.

Even so, idiots can be sued in America, and often are, so I’m hoping this apology will placate Mr. Lapointe to the extent that, once he’s able to hold a pen again, he doesn’t decide to file suit against me for reporting his death somewhat prematurely. If Mr. Lapointe wants to sue someone, he should sue the Florida Fish & Wildlife Dept., although he will probably have to stand in line to do it.

I base this statement on an MSNBC article sent to me by several readers, about a Florida Fish & Wildlife officer who took an alligator to his daughter’s school for show and tell, and it ate the teacher.

Not really. What happened was, when the fellow got to the Panama City school, he discovered he didn’t have the gator anymore. He had put it in the back of his pickup before he left home, and it was gone. Its mouth was taped shut, so it probably couldn’t bite anyone, for a while, but there you go.

According to the story, a Florida F&W spokesman named Stan Kirkland said alligators have ‘amazing’ jumping ability, which is how it probably got out of the pickup. I have no idea exactly what would be considered ‘amazing’ jumping ability in an alligator, but considering the beast is shaped like a log, with 6-inch legs, I’d have to agree with Stan. Assuming the gator actually jumped out of the pickup, and didn’t climb out, that is.

But then, this gator was five feet long. Since most pickup beds have sides that are less than 18 inches tall, I’m thinking it probably just crawled out. Which doesn’t say a lot for this particular officer’s intelligence, but I guess we weren’t fixing to nominate the guy for a Mensa Award anyway.

What I don’t understand is why a Florida Fish & Wildlife officer would haul a 5-foot gator around in the back of a pickup without tying it up somehow, and then expect it not to get loose. I’m assuming here that the guy knows something about gators, since they are native Florida wildlife, and it’s his business to know something about the critters that live down there.

Plus, the FF&W spokesman, Ol’ Stan, made pretty free with information about alligators’ jumping ability, which sounds like he knew all along they were practically pole-vaulters. That makes me wonder why the officer didn’t check with Stan beforehand, maybe call him up and say, “Hey, Stan, I’m thinking about taking a 5-foot gator to a school and show it to a bunch of kids. Can those things jump, or what?”

And I would imagine, based on what I know about girls, that the guy was probably in more trouble with his daughter than he was with his boss. She likely told all her friends her dad was bringing the gator to school, and then he lost it. Bummer.

The story ran on several websites, and some allowed readers to post comments. A couple of people complained that the gator would starve to death, with its mouth taped shut. I had not even thought about that, but it seems highly unlikely. Even duct tape deteriorates pretty quickly in water, and alligators can live a long time without eating. Plus I imagine he would rub it on enough stuff to get it off in a couple of days.

One person wrote, “What a croc.” Another said that learning alligators can jump is “one more thing to keep me up at night.” Ooooo-K.

My favorite was the fellow who wrote, “If I had a dollar for every time I lost an alligator at a show-and-tell . . .”

Yeah. Or shot myself in the hand with a muzzleloader . . .

Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who has never had an alligator escape from the back of his pickup. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or

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