DISPATCH FROM THE HUNT

Bayou Belle by Birth, Gator Trapper by Choice

Blaine Theriot measured alligators at Domangue's Gator Farm in Bayou Black, La., on the first day of gator season, Sept. 6. The season lasts till mid-October, when gators are fattening up for winter.
Blaine Theriot measured alligators at Domangue's Gator Farm in Bayou Black, La., on the first day of gator season, Sept. 6. The season lasts till mid-October, when gators are fattening up for winter. (By Sabree Hill -- Associated Press)
By Monica Hesse
Special to The Washington Post
Thursday, October 5, 2006

THIBODAUX, La. -- Lynnette Bourg owns two boats: one fiberglass, which she and her husband use for pleasure cruises along the bayou, and one metal, 17 feet long with a pointed hull, which they use for trapping alligators.

"I use the old one for alligator season, bebe," she says. "Because I don't particularly like the alligators throwing up in my good boat."

The vomit is a problem. When the gators are hauled to the boat they're still alive, with a five-inch shark hook buried deep in their bellies, along with the barbecued chicken thighs that Bourg uses for bait.

Alligator season lasts from the first week in September to the second week in October, when gators are fattening up for winter and are at their most aggressive. Before wrestling an alligator onboard, Bourg and her husband shoot it with a .22 magnum in the soft spot directly behind the skull. An inch forward or backward or to either side is no good; the bullet would ricochet off the thick hide. But usually their aim is steady, and the sight is spectacular.

"Blood shoots up like a fountain," Bourg says reverentially. "I'm telling you, chickadee, it's a fountain of blood."

Sometimes in between the hauling and the killing and the shooting of blood, the alligators vomit.

This story is better if you can picture Bourg, her Louisiana accent tinged with a bit of Creole French, her Betty Boop eyes widening when she talks about something that excites her -- and those eyes widen when she talks about fountains of alligator blood.

At 65, Bourg could still stop traffic, with a face like that of a 1940s movie starlet. She likes rhinestones, on shoes and dresses and sometimes, like today, on black T-shirts, appliqued around the neckline. She wears makeup but applies it quickly and without tremendous expectation. Sometimes, when she's finished, she sighs and says, "Well, that's the best my face is going to get without surgery." She says that her face doesn't matter much, anyhow, because once she gets on the alligator boat, she's dressed like "death eating an onion."

When Bourg was growing up in Bay St. Louis, Miss., her looks were more important. She had suitors, and for a while folks wondered whether she might marry a young lawyer in town. Instead, at 18, she met an alligator hunter from Thibodaux, Dean Bourg.

"With most boys, I could say, 'Take me to this club or take me home,' and they'd want to see me so bad they'd take me wherever I wanted," says Bourg. "I tried that with Dean on our first date and he said 'fine' " -- he'd take her home. "I knew I was in love."

The night before the season opens, Bourg and Dean get in their boat and cruise through the marshy sections of their land baiting traps.

Alligators don't eat underwater, and they prefer their food rotten, so the Bourgs suspend a shark hook from a branch 18 inches above the water, baited with spoiled chicken.


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