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EVERGLADES ALLIGATOR FARM
Homestead, Florida
Lat: 25°28'7.40"N Lon: 80°28'39.21"W
On any show like Off Limits, there's bound to be the occasional "challenging" segment. It's just a really hard show to produce from a distance and we're always at a distance. So, as we drove up to the Everglades Alligator Farm in Homestead, Fla., I figured this was going to be filler, at best--me walking around a tourist attraction, asking general questions about reptiles. Instead, Gator Farm was one of the most surprising and extreme experiences of my life, on or off television.

Florida's alligator farms were, and still are, a vital part of the state's culture. Some sixty farms produce gators for both harvest and tourism. Back in the '60s and '70s, the farms had everything to do with rescuing the species from the brink of extinction. Today, there are arguably too many of these creatures, as people in Florida are constantly calling the authorities to have them removed from their front yards and swimming pools. As I hail from a time before the Endangered Species Act, that part of the story actually fascinated me. But Off Limits isn't very exciting if I'm just talking and not doing. So, this one was a challenge. I was worried. I needn't have been.

Alligator Day became one of those segments the crew and I still laugh about months later. At first, we had no idea how I'd engage. What do you do at a farm? Count how many baby gators there are? Wrangle with a python? That'd be enough, right? Wrong. It quickly became evident that the show would need more—and, thus, I climbed into the holding pen with Bob, the farm's general manager, as he performed an alligator "wrestling" show for paying tourists. There we go, that was "off limits," getting myself inside the pen. We're good, right? Wrong. Imagine my surprise when Bob invited me to try a little wrestling on my own.

I don't want to give anything away, so you can watch the show and see what happens. I just wanted to communicate what it physically feels like to sit astride a full-grown gator. First, it's really big and really gnarly. The body is all muscle and covered in dinosaur scales. The creature is so powerful it can be absolutely unmoving and still feel energetic, kind of like standing next to a horse, although your average horse doesn't possess a jaw with the same biting impact of a mid-sized sedan falling on you (go ahead, look it up).

I'm recalling all this after the fact, of course, sitting here comfortably at my desk. At the time I was a tad preoccupied to be considering the details. I was mostly worried about losing my fingers as I curled them around said jaw, my heart thumping like a hammer as I half-expected the gator to become a bucking bronco and move in for the kill. And then my worst nightmare of all: me, going viral, being eaten on YouTube. Because, see, they'd never be able to air that on Off Limits. But, gosh, imagine the ratings.
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