Thursday, April 21, 2016

Lighthouse Gator

Lighthouse Gator?

Not this kind...

Not this kind either!

This kind!


Let me introduce you to Joe the lighthouse alligator! The Stone family found the big gator stranded in a pit near Cape Canaveral Lighthouse in the early 1930s. Fred Stone, son of Keeper Stone, recalled that the kids quickly became smitten with the handsome reptile and named him Joe. The kids’ mother allowed them to toss leftovers into the pit, and Joe managed to survive. In fact, he grew rather fat and developed a taste for Mrs. Stone’s finer creations, such as strawberry pie.

When Fred’s father received word he was to be transferred down to Hillsboro Inlet Light (pictured above courtesy of the Coast Guard), he announced that Joe would have to stay behind. Outcry from the kids must have been loud...very loud. Keeper Stone relented and told them he would allow Joe to go to Hillsboro if they could find a way to safely get the gator out of his pit. My book, The Lightkeepers' Menagerie, details of the antics involved in Joe’s extraction from the swampy abyss. Here, I’ll simply say the kids subdued Joe with plenty of food, flipped him on his back, and with lots of brawn and determination pulled him from the pit and got him onto the roof of the family car. Tied down and sated with Mrs. Stone’s good cooking, Joe was content to ride to Hillsboro.

It’s hard to imagine how that little caravan of traveling lightkeepers must have looked driving down Route 1, all their belongings in a wagon behind them and an alligator on the roof. “Keep your fingers inside, kids!” Mrs. Stone probably warned. It’s doubtful any hitchhikers flagged them down, and the local police probably were too astonished to give them a traffic ticket for hauling a gator.

Once at Hillsboro Lighthouse, Joe was placed in a fenced-in, cement pool and sand pit made especially for him. Word of his amazing transfer quickly spread, and tourists soon began coming to the station. They were charmed by the tall iron pile lighthouse, but they were more curious to see Joe. The Stones kept marshmallows on hand to feed the contented critter. He lived to a ripe old age and spent his sunset years at Gatorland.
(Photo of Joe courtesy of the Stone Family)
Yes, it's a true story. I couldn't make up stuff like this! Read more stories about animals at lighthouses in my book. Click on the link above. I guarantee you'll be de"light"ed with its furry, feathered, finned, scaly, slithery, crawlie tales!
Join me in Kennebunk, Maine on May 15 for a fun and entertaining presentation about animals that lived at lighthouses. I'm the featured speaker at the annual lighthouse gala for the American Lighthouse Foundation. Click here for more info.

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