It kept his forefathers alive and now it is his business. James Holt is a fourth-generation alligator wrestler.
A member of the Seminole Indian Tribe in South Florida, Holt and his younger brother Clinton, along with two other team members, host an alligator wrestling and venomous snake-handling show at the Native Village on the Seminole Reservation in Hollywood, Fla.
The show attracted 50,000 visitors last year. And, with improvements wrought to the Native Village, Holt expects 100,000 visitors in 2012. The full 45-minute show nets him $1,000. And he anticipates making $60,000 from his wrestling by year-end.
Holt has been wrestling the reptiles for seven years, learning the more dangerous deep water technique, where he dives into six feet of water and drags the 200 to 300 pound alligator out. Using a traditional technique called "bulldogging" he holds the critter's deadly mouth closed only with his chin and chest, leaving his arms free to tie up the gator.
"During the Indian Wars of the 1800's, our people kept getting pushed farther south into the swamp, away from deer and other livestock," explained Holt. "We depended on capturing the gators alive to take fresh meat back to our distant camps," said Holt.
Holt also puts his hands and even head in the gator's mouth and, lest anyone thinks the gators are drugged or lethargic, he nearly lost a hand when the gators jaws slammed shut (luckily the gator opened his mouth to get a better grip). Also his brother suffered puncture wounds and a fractured skull when one of the monsters took a chomp on his cranium.
"It's a calculated risk," said Holt, who owns the 300 gators rotated in the show -- all rescued from trappers. He keeps them "as wild as possible. Not only is it better for the animal, but it makes for a livelier show."
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