Until I was 9 years old, my family and I lived on a lake just outside of Tampa, FL, so we naturally spent a lot of time on the water. Being just a little thing at the time, it seemed to me our backyard was half a mile long; most likely it was only a quarter of an acre or so. Well, the yard ended in a little three foot bank. My daddy had made a sort of shallow shelf from there that tapered down into the water. We used to sit on this shelf and eat watermelon or just hang out if we didn’t feel like swimming.
By the time my brother Valiant was in high school, he’d proven to be a pretty fast runner. He used to love to race his friends from the back door of our house and down the yard; they’d leap off the bank and into the water. One day Valiant came flying out of the house, running for the lake like his feet were on fire. A second later his friend Jimmy followed, but Valiant always won. So my brother makes it to the banks, leaps off without hesitation, and lands smack-dab on top of a six foot alligator that was sunning in the shallow water!
The scene was like something from a Tarzan movie! The water was all white and frothy, Valiant was screaming, the alligator was swinging his head around and chomping those big, ugly teeth. One second it was up, and the next second Valiant was up. Now, my brother was smart enough to know that the best thing he could do was get control of those deadly jaws. So he manages to work his hands around the gator’s mouth and squeeze it shut. Holding on for dear life, he staggers to his feet, and then, with a mighty shove, flings the gator off him.
Well, the poor critter took off like he’d been shot out of a cannon! My brother was scratched, cut and bruised from one end of his body to the other, but he lived to tell the tale…over and over and over.
My momma says Valiant still leaps without looking to this very day.