“… There’s a little green frog swimming in the water a little green frog doing what he ought-a … Alright all you gladers… there are 15 species of frogs and snakes in this here swamp and the most deadly of all is Captain Dwayne’s trouser-snake responsible for breaking hearts and busting up trailer parks on both sides of the Okeefenokee. This here’s injun land compadres. You’re on an Indian Reservation and the spirit of the hawk and the water dragon oversees these waterways. Now you calls em gators but we calls em draaaaagons… and if you let old captain Dwayne rev up this here rusty metal wildebeest to 150 miles per hour we’ll just see if we can rustle up some draaaagons for ya … ” [vrooooom!]
“… Romeo and Juliet as well as Tugboat and Chomper usually feed near the marshes on the southwest quadrangle where we are heading right now so hold onto your socks and I’ll hold onto my rudder, gladers and away we’ll go… and don’t you fall overboard cause I don’t got no draaaagon insurance!… ” [vrooooom!]
“Now if you are wondering how deep the water is all you have to do is look at these lillypads with yellow flowers… them’s always six foot tall from the bottom… just like Captain Dwayne. OK, now’s the part where I gives you all your injun names. Big fella over there on the stern… from now on til forever you’re gonna be known as big water buffalo. Lady near him you’re um… water rat… you in the yellow shirt are mudhen, and er… you’re warthog… you are lizard-face, you’re cow’s anus (laughter) and you two love birds is bald eagle and ball-licker (laughter)… shhhh, quiet down now gladers… we’s hunting draaaaaagons… shut yer piehole cow’s anus! (more laughter)… now you all lissen up to Captain Dwayne cause what I’m telling you now may save your life… do NOT put your fat, grubby fingers OUTSIDE this boat and in the water under any circumstances — unless you want a dragon to snap em off like chicken fingers without buffalo sauce. I once saw one of the other tour guides, a callow young fellow, stick his hand in the water without paying attention. Yep… we all call him “lefty” these days… (laughter). That V formation of birds that just flew south over them trees were a flock of pelicans — an indigenous species to Florida much as injuns were before the white man came and stole our land, raped our women and committed mass genocide… but hey… we did get some cool beads and blankets folks and you can buy those and other sundries at the Gator Tours gift shop for a bunch of wampum if you like (strained laughter)… there’s a bunch of us crazy injuns that still have small shacks out here inside the swamp — and we don’t take too kindly to strangers and pale-faced intruders sticking their noses into our business… we like our moonshine strong and our squaws young — but that’s more than you need to know.
“… Now look lively all you gladers… on the portside bow you’ll see what we like to call tourist trees because the bark has a pinkish white color and it’s already starting to peel this time of year… as we shove off to the deep waters I’m obliged to tell you this is my 40th year skippering the S. S. Gator here at the Okefenokee swampland preserve-Flory-da’s most authentic swamp tour(applause) — that’s right my grandpappy took me out as a little brave and I fell in love with this beautiful waterway — now sit back and grab your gluteus maximuses this here wildebeest can cut through the marsh like a hatchet through Custer at the Little Big Horn when it gets a hankering to get going and I’m as crazy as a leech sucking on a the blood of a rotting hyena. Here we go gladers! [vrooooom!]
“… On the starboard bow we are passing tranquility point and an ancient injun burial ground where my forefathers were buried by the white man years ago when these here Everglades was fifty times the size it is now. Can’t mess with the white man that’s what they say… now you didn’t pay your hard earned money to hear no political speeches or hear your skipper speak with a forked tongue but what I tells you is ninety-nine per cent true with a touch of injun-uity — the injuns of which I is one, lived in these parts and that is why this swamp is called the Okeefenokee… now we aint gonna see no tee-pees or real live injuns no more — just some illiterate meth-head ancestors in trailers and shacks like yours truly. You want to see an “alligator” go the gift shop and buy a t-shirt… We don’t know from alligators our kin folk calls em draaaaagons… and if you’re real quiet we’ll see some dragons here in the glades amongst the turtle and birds and lily pads… Hey! look over there on the starboard side quickly… gladers… a yellow bellied slider… arghhh, too quick… let’s heave off to a real special spot… ” [vroooom!]
“Now be real quiet… I’m talking to you cow’s anus (laughter) shhhh… my grandfather and I ventured to this little area in one of these here airboats when I was but a little brave- he was dying of a terminal illness and we didn’t have no money to pay for no white doctors so he said a little injun prayer and then took out a revolver and shot his head clear off right in front of me. I was only fifteen at the time. Every day I come to this spot and I can feel his presence and think about him and it brings back special memories. In fact… THIS is the very same Smith and Wesson 45 that he used that day… KA-BLAAM!!! waddya know… it still works perfectly!”
“That’s right just toss those wallets and watches and jewelry right up here to the front of the boat — y’all sure are generous tippers and I sure do appreciate it — and now you can all toss your cell phones overboard right now. Trust me you will find it to be quite liberating to rid yourselves of those devil’s intercoms. Good girl, Mudhen! It’s been a real pleasure… this here’s the interactive part of Florida’s most authentic swamp tour — it’ll make a great story for one of your fancy cocktail parties. Alright, gladers, hop on OUT, tour’s OVER!”
The eight tourists splashed into the swamp up to their necks in a state of utter shock… not one of them said a word.
“Now if I were y’all I would make my way to that wooded area over there about a half mile away by those tourist trees and then with some luck you’ll make it to the Highway outside the Reservation by nightfall where you can hitch a ride to the airport. Now before you get to thinking about getting all ornery at some point, I should let you know my cousin Skeeter is the Sheriff on this here Reservation and he definitely don’t take kindly to pale-faced trespassers making wild allegations against his kin-folk on our land. And if I were y’all I would get a move on… it’s almost lunch time for them draaaagons… and Big Water Buffalo if ya get bit on the pecker by a water moccasin just ask mudhen over there to suck you off quick–but sweetheart just remember to spit… and don’t swaller… Catch you later, gladers!” [Vroooom!!!]
Header photograph courtesy of Adam Kluger