July 3, 2013

Thriller Thursday ~ Alligator Charmer

From the April 18, 1896 edition of The Evening Star in Washington, D.C.:

Courtesy of Chronicling America

"Alligators are supposed to be very fond of the colored race as food," said C. P. Beufort of Trinity, La., at the Normandie, "but there is a strange case in Catahoula parish, where I live.  A negro boy about twelve years old is an alligator charmer.  There are not many of the saurians left in Louisiana, what there are being found almost altogether in the Boueff, Little, Black and Ouachita rivers, that form a junction at the town of Trinity.  On Boueff river especially there are a number of alligators, although not nearly so many as there were a few weeks ago.  It is here that the negro, Jeff Phillips, has his cabin.  He feeds the 'gators, announcing his coming by playing on a mouth organ.  He claims to charm them with his music, but as I have never known them to be affected by music, I don't place much reliance in that theory.    But for several years Jeff has gone regularly to the river bank and fed the alligators.  In hot summer weather he will lay stretched out on a log, playing his mouth organ, while around him will be half a dozen alligators, two or three of them large ones, sunning themselves upon the same log, and paying no attention to Jeff.  The alligator tamer is looked upon with superstitious awe by those of his race, and is usually avoided, some of the people claiming that he is possessed of a devil in the form of an alligator."

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