An alligator soaking up some sun at Brazos Bend State Park, Texas. Photo by Steve Martaindale

And then there was the time I wrestled a wild, live alligator.

It took place in Bay City, Texas. Being less than 20 miles from East Matagorda Bay, and just off the banks of the Colorado River, and with plenty of irrigation canals and storm ditches, the idea of alligators in the area certainly isn’t difficult to believe, but I never thought I’d find one in the middle of town in the bed of a pickup truck.

It was a Sunday, the only day of the week things were not happening at the daily newspaper where I worked. I entered the building and found the keys to the circulation department’s pickup hanging where they were supposed to be.

That was a good start. Without the pickup I was allowed to borrow, moving that piano from our church to our home would not happen and the two or three guys from work who were showing up to help would have done so in vain.

I did a double-take, however, as I approached the door of the truck. Tied up in the bed was an American alligator.

This presented a problem. You see, I really needed this truck.

The gator seemed tied up well enough that it probably couldn’t bite me unless it broke free. The tail was concerning, though. It wasn’t huge, but it was still an alligator. Before I worried too much about those things, I needed a plan for what to do with it.

I surmised (correctly, I later learned) that someone delivering newspapers the previous evening came across the reptile and, for what I must assume they thought was a good reason, decided it needed to be relocated. I knew local game wardens had the habit of taking trespassing alligators to a more remote spot and freeing them.

But what was I to do? Releasing the critter, even if I had the nerve to remove the ropes, was not a good choice, being that we were on a busy thoroughfare with a residential area immediately behind us. I searched the area for an answer.

I really needed this truck.

My eyes landed on a 30-gallon plastic trash can.


I cannot clearly picture in my mind just how I got the alligator into the can. This was about 40 years ago, after all. But I’m pretty sure it had something to do with scooting the can to take in the gator’s head while strategically untying the ropes that had it bound to the truck. Soon enough, the deed was done and I dragged can and gator to a shady area near the door, covered part of the top with cardboard and left a warning message on it.

To my relief, when I later returned the truck, the gator had been removed.