You may be wondering where the town of Caldwell is, so I will tell you. It is in the south part of Kansas, almost in Oklahoma. It turns out that towns like Caldwell and Abilene were on an old-time road called The Chisholm Trail, and ranchers from Texas used to drive their longhorn cattle up to these towns so the cattle could get shipped in trains to the east part of the U.S., where beef was what was for dinner.
Anyway, the alligator thing happened because a man named James Rowley had a young pet gator that he kept in his basement. Except that sometimes the alligator got to spend time in an alligator habitat in the back yard. There was a pond in this habitat, and Mr. Rowley would feed goldfish to the alligator while he swam there. But what happened last week was that the pond overflowed, and the alligator was able to get to the top and then just walk out of the habitat.
Soon people started seeing an alligator walking around town, like for instance at the corner of 2nd and Main Streets. Every time somebody told the story of the ferocious alligator, he got to be bigger. First they said he was 3 or 4 feet long, and pretty soon he was 4-1/2 or 5 feet.
The kids at the elementary school near where the gator lived were not allowed outside at recess, and they had to call their parents to come pick them up after school instead of walking home. At the high school, football practice was cancelled. Everyone was afraid of being eaten alive by the alligator.
Meanwhile, a game warden from Kansas Wildlife and Parks came to Caldwell and tried to figure out how to deal with the situation. He called officials in Florida to find out how to capture an alligator. Also he asked Mr. Rowley how he got this animal in the first place because maybe it was illegal for him to have it. But it turned out that Mr. Rowley had bought the alligator legally in 2010 in Derby, KS. Which is probably the first place most people would think to go if they wanted to buy an alligator as a pet. Mr. Rowley had the proper permit to own his alligator, and he had not crossed any state lines with it, so everything was according to the law, except for the fact that the alligator was out exploring the town.
A bunch of people started looking for the gator, and finally two boys saw him under some boards at the Home Lumber Supply Co. He was captured and put in a dog crate and taken to the police station. It turned out that the alligator was only 38" long. "He's feisty," said Mr. Stout, the game warden. "He keeps hissing at us. It's pretty interesting." The hissing made the police nervous, so the taped the gator's mouth shut.
|Photo by DeeAnna Stout; KSN.com|
Since Mr. Rowley got his alligator legally, he is not in any trouble with the state of Kansas. But the town of Caldwell might decide to punish him somehow. Mr. Rowley has his alligator back now, and it turns out that his name is Munchie Mouth. Which is a pretty good name for an alligator, if you ask me. Anyway, Mr. Rowley thinks that people got upset "about a lot of nothing." He says that his pet is "tiny" and that "He doesn't even eat anything other than some lunch meat." He also says, "Munchie Mouth couldn't really hurt anybody at this point, but it caused quite a thing here in town."
Well, if you want my opinion, I think a 38" alligator is not "tiny," and I would not personally want to have anything to do with him because he might mistake me for some lunch meat. I just keep thinking about that Fatal Attraction show on Animal Planet, where people get these dangerous wild animals when they are babies, and then the animals grow up and bite somebody's leg off or kill them or whatever.
I told Mom I never want to go live in Caldwell, KS, and also I never want us to have an alligator for a pet. And for once, Mom totally agreed with me!
Here's an early photo of Caldwell, showing a herd of covered wagons being driven into town. I don't know where they are going, but maybe it's to California or Oregon or some other fun place. You can see by looking at this photo that there were no alligators in Caldwell back in those days.