Once there was an alligator who would eat anything, and everything he ate made him grow bigger. He ate birds and fish, lizards and mice, and he grew a bit bigger. He ate squirrels and raccoons and puppies, and he grew bigger still. He ate goats and deer and ponies, and he grew quite big indeed. Before long, he was eating full grown horses and cows and once even a llama that happened by. By this time he was absolutely enormous. He was so enormous that when young Sam Sutherford, just ten years old, wandered into the swamp, that giant alligator swallowed him whole.
It is not at all pleasant to be swallowed up by a giant alligator, but it is much better than being chewed up by a giant alligator. Let me explain. If a giant alligator takes a bite out of you with his giant teeth, there will be blood and pain, and you will soon die. But if a giant alligator takes one giant gulp and swallows you whole, then you will be very uncomfortably squeezed going down his giant throat and you will find his giant stomach a very dark, smelly, and oddly rocky place to be, but on the whole it is still much better than being dead.
When young Sam found himself swallowed by the giant alligator, he was of course terrified. He thought that he would soon be dead. But after a while, he realized that nothing was happening to him so he perked up a bit and looked around. There wasn’t too much room in that stomach, but Sam did notice several smallish rocks sitting around. He thought that was extremely odd, but he chose one as a seat and sat down to figure out what to do next. At first, he tried to beat on the walls of the stomach with his fists, but that did nothing. Then he tried throwing the rocks at the walls, hoping to break through. That didn’t do much, either, though it did make the alligator rumble with anger. Shortly after that, a few more rocks came hurtling into the stomach, having been swallowed by the alligator. Sam ducked out of the way just in time. That was when he remembered that alligators swallow rocks to help digest their food. The giant alligator must have thought that banging he felt was just an upset stomach. Sam sat down to think some more.
In the end, he realized there wasn’t much more he could do. He decided to wait and hope that someday, someone would come alligator hunting and rescue him. And that is what he did. He passed the time by stacking the rocks into castles and cities, he slept curled up in a circle of stones, and when he was very hungry, he built a little fire and roasted a bit of whatever animal the alligator had swallowed that day. The fires always caused the alligator to swallow more rocks, but in no time at all, Sam was very good at dodging out of the way of incoming stones. It wasn’t exactly a comfortable life, but Sam found that he could get by.
Outside of the stomach, things were not going well at all. The giant alligator had a constant stomach ache, and that made him very, very grouchy. He was sure that what he needed was more food to grow bigger, and since no animal was stupid enough to wander into his swamp any more, he decided to venture out and visit some nearby farms. He poached sheep and cows and the occasional horse. He knocked down rock walls to get to the animals and burst through fences for no reason at all other than his extreme grouchiness. He began to get a reputation. Once people knew that there was a humongous (he’d grown too big by now to just be giant) mean alligator on the loose, they were determined to get rid of him at all cost. Soon some of the local farmers formed a hunting party, and they called in the famous alligator hunter, Joe-Joe Geronimo.
Joe-Joe walked around with two giant machetes tucked into his belt, and he was known to have killed more than fifty alligators. He got the men together and outlined a plan. The next day, they all headed into the swamp to track down the humongous alligator. He wasn’t hard to find. Humongous alligators can’t exactly hide. When they found him, though, their troubles began. Several of the men shot at him with their guns, but the alligator was so big and tough by now that the bullets just skipped off his hide. That was why Joe-Joe had set up his plan. While the men with guns distracted the alligator, Joe-Joe and a few helpers circled around and prepared their ropes. Then in the blink of an eye, they leapt out from behind the trees and tied the alligator up. It took all those men pulling on the ropes to hold that humongous alligator still for even a moment. But a moment was all that Joe-Joe needed. He jumped onto the alligator’s humongous head, whipped out his machetes, and plunged them right into the alligators neck. The alligator was instantly dead, and all the men cheered.
Then they heard a funny noise coming from inside the alligator. They raised their guns again. Cautiously, Joe-Joe approached the alligator and cut open it’s belly. Out climbed a boy, all in rags and sticking terribly like the inside of an alligator. The men could not believe their eyes. It was young Sam Sutherford, and he was still alive. No one who saw it could believe it, so you can imagine how everyone felt who didn’t see it. There was quite a bit of doubting going on back in the city when the men went home.
To this day, no one is quite sure if that story is a legend or the truth, but I can tell you two things. Joe-Joe Geronimo has a humongous stuffed alligator at his hunting lodge, the biggest trophy he’s ever captured. And young Sam Sutherford grew up to be an archeologist, camping for weeks on end in the arctic tundra or the deepest desert. They say he can survive anywhere for as long as he needs to.