Apicultura Wiki

IN the dark recesses of the loneliest swamps - in those dismal abodes where production and decay run riot - where the serpent crawls from his den among the tangled ferns and luxuriant grass, and hisses forth, unmolested, his propensities to destroy-where the toad and lizard spend the livelong day in their melancholy chirpings - where the stagnant pool festers and ferments, and bubbles up its foul miasma-where the fungi seem to grow beneath your gaze-where the unclean birds retire after their repast, and sit and stare with dull eyes in vacancy for hours and days together; - there originates the alligator; there, if happy in his history, he lives and dies.

But, alas! the pioneer of the forest invades his home - the axe lets in the sunshine upon his hiding-places : - and he frequently finds himself, like the Indian, surrounded by the encroachments of civilization, a mere intruder, in his original domain - and under such circumstances only, does he become an object of rough sport, the incidents of which deserve a passing notice.

The extreme southern portions of the United States are exceedingly favorable to the growth of the alligator: in the swamps that stretch over a vast extent of country, inaccessible almost to man, they increase in numbers and size, live undisputed monarchs of their abodes, exhibiting but little more intelligence, and exerting but little more volition than decayed trunks of trees for which they are not unfrequently mistaken.

In these swampy regions, however, are found high ridges of land inviting cultivation. The log cabin takes the place of the rank vegetation - the evidences of thrift appear - and as the running streams display themselves, and are cleared for navigation, that old settler, the alligator, becomes exposed, and falls a victim to the rapacity of man.

Thus hunted - like creatures of higher organization, he grows more intelligent, from the dangers of his situation; his instincts become more subtle, and he wars in turn upon his only enemy; soon acquires a civilized taste for pork and poultry, and acquires also a very uncivilized one for dogs.

An alligator, in the truly savage state, is a very happy reptile: encased in an armor as impenetrable as that of Ajax, he moves about, unharmed by surrounding circumstances.

The fangs of the rattlesnake grate over his scales as they would over a file; the constrictor finds nothing about him to crush; the poisonous moccason bites at him in vain; and the greatest pest of all, the mosquito, which fills the air of his abode with a million stings, that burn the flesh of other living things like sparks of fire, buzz out their fury upon his carcass in vain.

To say that he enjoys not these advantages - that he crawls not forth as a proud knight in his armor - that he treads not upon the land as a master - and moves in the water the same - would be doing injustice to his actions, and his habits, and the philosophical example of independence which he sets to the trembling victims daily sacrificed to his wants.

The character of an alligator's face is far from being a flattering letter of recommendation. The mouth is enormously large, and extends from the extreme tip of the nose backwards until it passes the ears; indeed, about one third of the whole animal is mouth, which, being ornamented with superabundant rows of white teeth, gives the same hope of getting out of it, sound in body and mind, if once in, as does the hopper of a bark- mill. Its body is short and round, not unlike that of a horse; its tail is very long, and fattened at the end like an oar. It has the most dexterous use of this appendage, which propels it along swiftly in the water, and on land answers the purpose of a weapon of defence.

The traveller through the lonely swamp at nightfall often finds himself surrounded by these singular creatures, and if he be unaccustomed to their presence and habits, they cause great alarm. Scattered about in every direction, yet hidden by the darkness, he hears their huge jaws open and shut with a force that makes a noise, when numbers are congregated, like echoing thunder.

Again, in the glare of the camp fire will sometimes be seen the huge alligator crawling within the lighted circle, attracted by the smell of food-perchance you have squatted upon a nest of eggs, encased with great judgment in the centre of some high ground you yourself have chosen to pass the night upon.

Many there are who go unconcernedly to sleep with such intruders in their immediate vicinity; but a rifle ball, effectively fired, will most certainly leave you unmolested, while the alligator, in its agonies of death, no doubt takes comfort in the thought, that the sun will hatch out its eggs, and that there will grow up a numerous brood of young, as hideous and destructive as itself.

The alligator is a luxurious animal, fond of all the comforts of life, which are, according to its habits, plentifully scattered around it. We have watched them, enjoying their evening nap in the shades of tangled vine, and in the hollow trunk of the cypress, or floating like a log on the top of some sluggish pool.

We have seen them sporting in the green slime, and watching, like a dainty gourmand, the fattest frogs and longest snakes; but they are in the height of their glory, stretched out upon the sand-bar in the meridian sun, when the summer heats pour down and radiate back from the parched sand, as tangibly as they would from red-hot iron. In such places will they bask, and blow off, with a loud noise, the inflated air and water which expands within them, occasionally rolling about their swinish eyes with a slowness of mutton, which, while it expresses the most perfect satisfaction, is in no way calculated to agitate their nerves, or discompose them, by too suddenly taking the impression of outward objects.

While thus disposed, and after the first nap is taken, they amuse themselves with opening their huge jaws to their widest extent, upon the inside of which, instinctively settle, thousands of mosquitoes and other noxious insects which infest the abode of the alligator. When the inside of the mouth is thus covered, the reptile brings his jaws together with inconceivable velocity, gives a gulp or two, and again sets his formidable trap for this small game.

Some years since, a gentleman in the southern part of Louisiana, on "opening a plantation," found, after most of the forest trees had been cleared off, that in the centre of his land was a boggy piece of low soil, nearly twenty acres in extent. This place was singularly infested with alligators. Among the first victims that fell a prey to their rapacity, were a number of hogs and fine poultry; next followed, nearly all of a pack of fine deer hounds. It may be easily imagined that the last outrage was not passed over with indifference. The leisure time of every day was devoted to their extermination, until the cold of winter rendered them torpid, and buried them up in the earth.

The following summer, as is naturally the case, the swamp, from the intense heat, contracted in its dimensions; a number of artificial ditches drained off the water, and left the alligators little else to live in than mud, which was about the consistency of good mortar: still the alligators clung with singular tenacity to their native homesteads, as if perfectly conscious that the coming fall would bring them rain. While thus exposed, a general attack was planned and carried into execution, and nearly every alligator was destroyed. It was a fearful and disgusting sight to see them rolling about in the thick sediment, striking their immense jaws together in the agony of death.

Dreadful to relate, the stench of these decaying bodies in the hot sun, soon produced an unthought-of evil. Teams of oxen were used in vain to haul them away; the progress of corruption under the influence of a tropical climate made the attempt fruitless.

On the very edge of the swamp, with nothing exposed but the head, lay one huge monster, evidently sixteen or eighteen feet long; he had been wounded in the melée, and made incapable of moving, and the heat had actually baked the earth around his body as firmly as if he was imbedded in cement. It was a cruel and singular exhibition to see so much power and destructiveness so helpless.

We amused ourselves in throwing various things into his great cavernous mouth, which he would grind up between his teeth. Seizing a large oak rail, we attempted to run it down his throat, but it was impossible; for he held it for a moment as firmly as if it had been the bow of a ship, then with his jaws crushed and ground it to fine splinters.

The old fellow, however, had his revenge; the dead alligators were found more destructive than the living ones, and the plantation for a season had to be abandoned.

In shooting the alligator, the bullet must hit just in front of the fore legs, where the skin is most vulnerable; it seldom penetrates in other parts of the body.

Certainty of aim, therefore, tells in alligator shooting, as it does in every thing else connected with sporting.

Generally, the alligator; when wounded, retreats to some obscure place; but if wounded in a bayou, where the banks are steep, and not affording any hiding-places, he makes considerable amusement in his convolutions in the water, and in his efforts to avoid the pain of his smarting wounds.

In shooting, the instant that you fire, the reptile disappears, and you are for a few moments unable to learn the extent of injury you have inflicted.

An excellent shot who sells the load with almost unerring certainty through the eye, made one at a huge alligator, and, as usual, he disappeared, but almost instantly rose again, spouting water from his nose, not unlike a whale. A second ball, shot in his tail, sent him down again, but he instantly rose and spouted: this singular conduct prompted a bit of provocation, in the way of a plentiful sprinkling of bits of wood, rattled against his hide. The alligator lashed himself into a fury; the blood started from his mouth; he beat the water with his tail until he covered himself with spray, but never sunk without instantly rising again.

In the course of the day since died and floated ashore; and, on examination, it was found that the little valve with which nature has provided the reptile, to close over its nostrils when under water, had been cut off by the first shot, and he was thus compelled to stay on the top of the water to keep from being drowned.

We have heard of many since who have tried thus to wound them, and although they have been hit in the nose, yet they have been so crippled as to sink and die.

The alligator, when inhabiting places near plantations, is particularly destructive on pigs and dogs, and if you wish to shoot them, you can never fail to draw them on the surface of the water, if you will make a dog yell, or a pig squeal; and that too, in places where you may have been fishing all day, without suspecting their presence.

Herodotus mentions the catching of crocodiles in the Nile by baiting a hook with flesh, and then attracting the reptile towards it by making a hog squeal.

The ancient Egyptian manner of killing the crocodile is different from that of the present day, as powder and ball have changed the manner of destruction; but the fondness for pigs in the crocodile and alligator, for more than two thousand years, remains the same.