Tuesday, May 28, 2013


THE BIG STORY IS THAT GATOR FARMS HAVE SAVED THE ALLIGATOR FROM EXTINCTION----AND--- CREATED A LARGE INDUSTRY.  PRIVATE ENTERPRISE AND ECOLOGY HAVE CONVERGED IN THIS ONE CASE.  PERHAPS THE PRINCIPLES LEARNED HERE CAN SAVE MOST OF THE WORLD'S ENDANGERED SPECIES.  The principle---simply put---is to find a way to make it PROFITABLE to do so.  Each species may require a different, imaginative approach.  Profitable TOURISM might save the elephant.  Creating a legal market for rhino horns might save the Rhino.  Entrepreneurs could raise them for their valuable horns. (do they grow back when cut off?)  

News flash:  it turns out that smart and sensible people are waaaay ahead of me.  Preserving endangered species by sustainable use is the aim of this already existing organization---to which---most of the world's nations already subscribe.  Good work and sensible policies are being implemented across the globe.(go CITES!!!)

The small story is the quasi-dynasty my sister and her husband have spawned.  I will speculate on that at the end.   But first I will wrap up the gator story with things I never knew and things perhaps you've never seen.

Gator eggs must be gathered in the wild.  Their nest are best spotted from the air ---in June---often around the full moon.  This ultralite was used for the first years.  Now of course he uses his helicopter---spots a nest---pushes a button and the gps remembers the exact location --- relayed to a ground crew.  They take all the eggs and incubate them. At 87 degrees the egg will develop into a female gator.  At 91 degrees a male.  At 89 degrees a mix of male and female.  Jeff prefers males--they grow bigger---worth more---but not by a lot.  
 As he gives me the story---we walk around his ranch---shows me his pet elk---has had him for years---shows me the accumulated antlers.
 Ducks, chickens and that Vietnamese pig--which curiously does not need to be fed---fends for himself.
 shows me his private dock and motorboat on the beautiful Ouachita river. (pronounced wash-I-taw)
 This critical piece of equipment---heater---maintains a near constant 89 degree water temperature.
 by mixing hot with cold water.
 And it costs a bit of money to operate.  During a cold winter he might use a whole tankful of propane in a 2 week period.
 Ignore the next few pictures if you're squeamish---he let me witness the "harvest".
As with cattle butchering---new ways of killing are  instantaneous to prevent suffering.  
 I watched Skilled hands carefully separate meat from hide.
 It wholesales for $9 a pound ---demand is always greater than supply.
Cases of meat carefully packed and stored at zero degrees. (coldest room I've ever been in) 
 The really valuable stuff---premium hides of 3 year old alligators---I was tempted to ask how many of them it took to buy that helicopter---but I didn't.  Interestingly all these hides go to Thailand for further processing.
 Meet a real Crocodile Dundee---he single handedly cornered and killed this "nuisance" gator that was endangering a family. (It ate the family dog)
 Sis shows off a gift from her son Jeff----the end product ---an alligator handbag.
They cost thousands.
 I managed one photo of the patriarch of this dynasty---Dr. Al.  I asked him what he had done right to spawn so productive a batch of kids.  He said he had only offered a small piece of advice to Jeff:  Told him he should Go Big. 
 The doc was quite a hunter.  Over the years he has allowed me to pick his medical brain when I was in trouble.
RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES:  I think what my sister Bobby Jean and Al did different in raising their kids----over and beyond being decent loving parents was to HAVE A PERSONAL LIFE  THEMSELVES----and---- EXPECT---(ALLOW) each of their kids to invent their own life---to gradually discover their own fascinations and find a way to contribute to society.  Not demanding DETAILED  OBEDIENCE---they simply set and enforced broad Boundaries and then supported each one as they felt their way to Autonomy.  Well done sis---I love you and your family.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013


Meet my nephew Jeff a prime contributor to alligator restoration.  I asked a lot of questions----he offers to show me first hand how this brilliant new idea works.

First the facts: only 17% of a clutch of alligator eggs will survive to viability----IN THE WILD.  Incubated in captivity the viability rate is 90%.  SO WHY NOT LEGALIZE THE GATHERING OF WILD EGGS---HATCH THEM--- RAISE THEM TO VIABILITY and RELEASE 17% OF THE GATORS BACK INTO THE WILD. The remaining 73% can be raised for 2 or 3 years and "harvested" FOR PROFIT----Thus satisfying market demand for hides and meat---Undercutting the need for poaching.  As the wild population increases it becomes possible to allow a controlled hunting season.  AND BINGO!  IT WORKED---EXACTLY LIKE THAT.
Jeff does a thorough pre flight check of his helicopter.
 Provides me with noise deadening headgear that allows normal conversation.
Up and over his rooftop---fantastic feeling---as near as we can come to a magic carpet ride. 
 West Monroe ---affluent---lovely---and now famous
as the home of the Duck Dynasty family---they live down there--(middle left) 
 A few minutes and we look down on his main--facility---growing about 60,000 gators. 
 He circles me round his Texas-sized "ranch"---has it's own swamp.
 Looking down the hallway of one of the 8 buildings.  I noted they are super insulated and super clean.
Hundreds of separate rooms, each  with water  and automatic timed food supply.  This door receives his immediate attention because it has had the highest deaths. (4)

Opened door---light shone into a warm---normally darkened room.  About a hundred of them scurry about and dive from sight. That's fresh water going in.  
 Another dead one is spotted and this calls for immediate action. Miguel---without hesitation steps into the 3 ft deep waters---retrieves the body.
 Hands it to Jeff and hurries out.
 A death is a matter of considerable concern---It could the first sign of West Nile virus.  With Millions of dollars at stake---the whole team focus on the body.
 Naturally, I ask Miguel if he ever gets bit.  He shows me several scars.
 The team conferences outside---at length---discussing the possibilities and what corrective measures will be taken.  In this case--draining and sterilizing the pool---walls and floors.
Also, the body is packed in ice and  sent to a vet for a post-mortem.
Here's my favorite photo of the day---the wind-up conversation between Jeff and Miguel. I see in the body language here friendship and respect of team members.  I observed carefully for tone and dominance posturing---AND SAW NONE.  I concluded that two reasons for his success are attention to detail and generous employee relations. 
RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES:  En route home I asked Jeff for some secrets of his success.  He says that his Mother instilled fundamental values and that his dad modeled a great work ethic---AND ESPECIALLY GENEROSITY.  His father --A medical doctor practiced giving as earnestly as he practiced medicine. 
Jeff seems to have "caught" the generosity bug---seems to enjoy sharing ---house, pool, weekend retreat, food, money and time. 
   This is only half the story----will pick it up here tomorrow--show you the end game process and tell you of a world wide movement mimicking  the gator technique that can save almost all endangered species.


Sunday, May 19, 2013


SQUEEZING THE "SECRET" FROM MY SISTER.  I think she has valuable information--I hope to get.

She's still 50 miles away--but I can't resist a short side trip to show you the remote site where outlaws Bonnie and Clyde were ambushed. The bullet-riddled car is on display at a casino in Primm, Nevada.
The nearest town-- Gibsland, La.  Proud of it's dubious claim to fame--- hosts yearly "Bonnie and Clyde days" festivals.
The Marker appropriately shot up a bit. Here's an FBI synopsis:  http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/history/famous-cases/bonnie-and-clyde
So on I go to West Monroe---and there she is--my sister Dr. Bobby Jean----(last name omitted)We've not seen each other in many years---though we chat by phone occasionally. I try to explain my mission to her.
She arranges for me to meet the extended family this very night. 
It's a traditional crawfish feast.  Messy affairs-- so we eat in this garage.  Most of those folks are related to me somehow. 
Crawfish-- boiled---hard to believe people eat them.
Dumped hot from the cooker onto a screen---note the corn and potatoes.  Waste  is dropped into the center and fall into a garbage can. People shell and eat till they're full.
Believe it or not, I've never eaten one-- till now.  Sis shells a few for me till I get the hang of it.  Not bad--like small lobster tails---(still not thrilled)
Meet Jeff---my nephew and host.  And that's Wolf--his son.
Skylar---his daughter has something to show "uncle Poppy".(that's what everyone here calls me---Poppy---I like it)  She's bringing these two live crayfish to her pet. 
A rare and friendly albino raccoon.
Not camera shy

Makes short work of the crawfish.
This is one of Jeff's houses.  Woah !---what does he do for a living?
Jeff's wife,_Denise--mother of Wolf and Skylar--, mistress of this mansion .
Turns out, alligators paid for this mansion. I persuade my nephew to give me the story tomorrow.
Now back to the secret I'm after: How to raise exceptional kids---My sister raised 4 of them: Autonomous personalities all.  Meet Dr. Donna _______my Niece  who drops by and attempts an answer.  What did Bobby Jean and Dr. Al-- do right-- to cultivate 4 such worthy, contributing citizens.  (Trust me, the other two are equally independent and productive) She said: (I paraphrase) There's no great secret----just cultivate values into your children like Momma did with us---with consistency. Could it be that simple? mmmmmmm
Now here's a teaser for tomorrows entry.  This giant is a "nuisance" gator---brought in by a guy who specializes in removing them.  IT ATE THE FAMILY DOG---and  winds up in Jeff's facility---He handles such cases as a public service.
The main business here is to raise hundreds of thousands of gators from eggs to 3 year olds.  Will show you tomorrow----brace yourself.
RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES:  So far--so good---I'm liking my family and they seem to like me---- intrigued by this curious nomad----puzzled how I managed to live so free so long without working.