After our return from Gator Hook I received an email from Katy asking if I knew how it had gotten its name. I replied that I had heard stories, but I wasn’t sure if they were true. So, if I’m wrong, or you can add anything else, please let me know.
From what I understand, the cypress strand that runs through our property travels all the way to Loop Road. I think Gator Hook Trail may run through part of that cypress strand. The name of the cypress strand is Roberts Strand. During the time when ‘gators were being killed in masive numbers and then were being poached in massive numbers, Roberts Strand was one of the glory holes. It was very difficult to get to, so the Roberts had the trade pretty much to themselves. Then the logging folks came in and built the trail in order to get out the logs after they had been cut down. The trail made it much easier to get into the strand and get the ‘gator hides out.
According to Oscar, who was a ‘gator poacher when he was young, the easiest way to catch a gator is to put meat on the end of a large hook, let the gator take it then yank the hook and drag the ‘gator to shore…thus the term ‘gator hook…and the Gator Hook Trail.
A few days later Eric sent me an email with a story he had found written by Edward Abbey when he worked in Everglades National Park. I had no idea Edward Abbey ever worked in the Everglades! He is known all over for his writings of out west…anyway…here it is:
From: “My life as a P.I.G. or Smokey the Cop” by Edward Abbey
I moved on, to Everglades National Park, down in Florida, where the rednecks and alligators live, thriving on one another. Only an alligator will eat a redneck and vice versa.
At the Everglades they gave me a souped up Plymouth Interceptor with siren and red and blue gumball lights on top. I was a traffic cop, a highway patrolman. Night Shift. I wrote a few warning tickets, out of sheer meanness, but spent much of my time careening down the Pine Island-Flamingo highway, late at night, lights flashing, to see what the Interceptor would do (125MPH).
Sometimes I halted traffic on the highway in order to shepherd one of those eight-foot diamond-backs across the pavement.
Another chore was checking doors at the visitor center and chasing skunks, drunks, and alligators out of the rest rooms, which were left unlocked at night. But the grimmest part of the job was lying in wait at night, far out in the sloughs, watching for ‘Gator Roberts. You never heard of ‘Gator Roberts? He was simply the most famous alligator poacher in the state of Florida, maybe in the whole Southeast; a legendary figure, phantom outlaw, folk hero, and a bone in the throat of Everglades park rangers. We hated him. But we had an informat, a waitress who worked at the Redneck Cafe, near Pine Island. She had connections with the poaching business and would tell us, from time to time (for a price), exactly where old ‘Gator Roberts was planning to strike next. We’d stake out the place – some stinking, stagnant pond deep in the dismal swamp – and would wait there all night, sweating, scatching chigger bites, cursing, slapping mosquitoes, fondling our guns. He never appeared. Next morning we’d learn that 16 skinned alligator carcasses had been found somewhere at the other end of the park, 40 miles away, with a note attached: “You Smokies ain’t got the brains Gawd give a spoonbill duck. Regards, ‘Gator.”