HISTORY OF PASCO COUNTY
Combination Bob Shelter and Pet Alligator Pit
By JIM ST. CLAIR
During World War II, my parents and I lived on Franklin Street in Lacoochee next to the railroad tracks. One day, for some unknown reason, a sliding door to a boxcar fell off a passing train near our house. Some teenage boys who lived nearby found the boxcar door. They had the brilliant idea of using the door as the top of a bomb shelter. So, the boys dug a hole in the small field between our house and the railroad tracks. The hole was about five feet wide, eight feet long and four feet deep. They covered the bottom of the hole with discarded linoleum and used the boxcar door to cover about half of the hole. They put a ladder inside the hole so they could climb in and out of the bomb shelter. Fortunately, the bomb shelter was never used. The boys abandoned it and moved on to other things.
A short time later, my father and I were using a net in the Withlacoochee River to catch minnows so we could go fishing. To our surprise, in addition to the minnows, we caught a three foot alligator in the net. We brought the gator home and put him (or her) in the bomb shelter. I knew the gator needed water, so I dug a hole in the bottom of the bomb shelter, put a large wash tub in the hole and filled it with water. Now, the gator had shade on one end of the bomb shelter under the boxcar door and sunshine and water at the other end. Every few days, I would get meat scraps from the grocery store and feed them to the gator.
The bomb shelter had now become a pet alligator pit.
After a few weeks, the fun of having an alligator pet wore off. So, my friend Horace Charles Morgan and I decided to give the gator his freedom. We retrieved him from his pit, put him in a box and took him back to his home in the Withlacoochee River. He happily swam away, no worse for his life in the pet alligator pit.
Above is a picture of Horace Charles and me with my pet alligator on the day the gator regained his freedom and went back home into the Withlacoochee River.
Editor’s Note: As an adult Horace Charles became a professional outdoorsman selling alligator hides, venison and fish. He also caught rattlesnakes and sold them to the Ross Allen Institute in Silver Springs, Florida. Ross Allen would milk the snakes for their venom, which was used as an anecdote for snake bites.