Denver Photographer – Fearless 2014 – Colorado Gator Farm
I’m not really sure why, but when I said that I was going to wrestle an alligator, people thought I was kidding.
Let me back up. If you follow me on Facebook, you have probably already seen the photo that has caused some raised eyebrows, judgments, and looks of haughty derision. (BBT reference for you BBT fans out there!)
A few years ago, I learned there is an alligator farm in Colorado – random, right? So of course, I must go! A few months ago, when we started thinking about traveling down this month, I discovered that they offer an alligator wrestling class. Wh-wh-what?! OF COURSE I will do it! When I told Tom that I wanted to, he knew I wasn’t joking. He said that it scared him to think of me on top of an alligator, but if I wanted to do it, he would take pictures. First hurdle, done! K was upset that he wasn’t old enough for the handling class, so we told him that if he had a stellar week at school in doing his work and behaving, I would sign him up for the reptile handling class. He did, so we did.
So that is how we came to be traveling down to Alamosa on Saturday to wrestle alligators and snakes. I posted on Facebook, and I was kind of surprised that there wasn’t a lot of response. I figured y’all just didn’t care if I got eaten by an alligator, not gonna lie, my feelings were a little hurt. ;) But when I posted a photo of me holding the 9 foot alligator, everyone said they thought I was kidding!
So that brings me to my next quandary – why is it so odd for me to want to wrestle an alligator? To me, this makes total sense – if I’m going to drive four hours down to an alligator farm and sanctuary, I’m not going to just watch from a fence, I want to experience the animals! Driving home, I told Tom:
It kind of bothers me that my normal is seen as weird to everyone else.
I’ve been thinking about this more and more. Why is it so weird for me to want to wrestle the alligators? Because most people don’t? Why is it that, in my mind, there was never a doubt that I would – and NOT doing it, would be weird to me? Am I weird? Am I crazy?
That thought definitely crossed my brain. ;) I realize it’s most likely not the truth, but it’s fun to dream, right? Although that brings up another question:
Why does wanting to experience something to the fullest, instead of just watching, make me crazy?
Personally, I don’t think that it does, but my pondering on this point has taken me a few days to come to this conclusion:
WHO THE HELL CARES?
I’m sure I will piss someone off with that. But seriously – if I want to wrestle alligators and experience something to the fullest, and people think I’m crazy for it, does it matter? Why do I care what people think? As I get older, I care less and less, but sometimes it still bothers me. We all want validation, we all want to be liked, to feel like we belong. Truthfully, I have NEVER felt like I belong anywhere, and part of my word for 2014 – Fearless – is to get over the desire to fit in. To be myself, to be FEARLESS in giving back to others and loving in the way that I was created to love – fully and without hesitation or reservation.
And so, we visited the gator farm and did “crazy” things without hesitation. After all, one of the rules we learned when capturing the alligators was
They will see the hesitation and take advantage of the situation, and someone could end up losing some digits!
How about some photos, and more of the story?
The Colorado Gator Farm and Reptile Park isn’t a zoo – and I think that people misunderstand that at times. I have been to other animal sanctuaries, and knew what to expect, but I know that sometimes people expect everything to be on display and pretty and shiny – this is a working facility. These animals are commonly kept as pets when they are little, and when they’re too big to be great pets anymore, people abandon them. Jerks. Sorry, sidenote. So these types of sanctuaries take the animals in to care for them for the rest of their lives. Morris, the alligator movie star in Happy Gilmore and several other movies, is retired here! A lot of these animals have experienced abuse and neglect, and coming to this sanctuary to live out their days in muddy waters is most likely a high point for them.
The farm and park doesn’t just have alligators, they have other animals too! Like this guy – who quickly became my friend as soon as I pet him. Usually I’m not a cat person, but if he would have fit in my purse, I may or may not have taken him home because I liked him so much!
I hate birds. There, I said it. I would rather be in a pen with 40 alligators (done!) than one bird. They’re creepy. But this guy was kinda cute. KIND OF.
Before the classes, we walked around the grounds and looked around.
Mr. Bo Mangles, the albino alligator, one of only about 50 in the world.
The little guys aren’t so scary, right?
I can say it again – I hate birds. But these guys were definitely entertaining, they kept whistling at me. It was kind of flattering, until I remembered they’re birds.
Everyone that visits gets to hold a baby alligator – Chomper!
To say I was excited to hold an alligator might be a TAD bit of an understatement.
And then, it was time for the class! Jay taught us techniques to handle the alligators so we wouldn’t lose any fingers or appendages – because yes, it is dangerous.
When I saw this picture, my first thought was that it would definitely never see the light of day – what a horrible face. But it shows the reality of what I was feeling – scared but excited, freaking out a little!
The first ones, the babies, weren’t too difficult.
It’s interesting to me how people are so quick to judge – I have taken some flack lately. “Why would you do that to those poor alligators?” The entire point of wrestling the alligators is to examine them for wounds and treat the wounds. Two of them were very ill and needed medication, one was given a shot and the other was force fed medicated food because he wasn’t eating.
Alligators don’t just get in the car for a doctor’s appointment, people.
Some of the coolest parts of all of this, and they still gives me goosebumps, are the opportunities that K had to be close to the animals and care for them. He helped treat their wounds and clean them up, while we held them down for safety. HOW MANY 9 YEAR OLDS GET TO TREAT ALLIGATORS?! That is so freakin’ cool. He doesn’t realize it now, but I hope that one day he really GETS it – how rare these opportunities are, and how precious.
I wrestled a total of 5 alligators, ranging from about 4 feet long to 9 feet long! There was one moment when I was standing in the water and an alligator started walking right up to me. Ummm not prepared for this, not gonna lie, I freaked out a bit. The instructor told me to stand completely still, be a tree. I stood there with my eyes closed tightly saying over and over again “BE A TREE BE A TREE I’M A TREE BE A TREE BE A TREE” and he rubbed up against me, and went on his way. It’s funny, I jumped on several that day, held them down, and kissed a HUGE one. But that was by far the scariest part – standing there still, and letting this huge predator walk right past me.
And yes, I gave one a kiss.
We took a class picture at the end to prove we still had all of our fingers.
We have such a limited time in our lives to really LIVE. Day to day can get to be routine, and while there is nothing wrong with that routine, sometimes we need to break out of it and do something that everyone else thinks is a little crazy.
What is something that YOU want to do, that others think is crazy?
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