Tuesday, April 16, 2024

The biggest downside to making a TV show about crocodiles: the smell

When we last left our intrepid crocodile seekers, they had discovered a farm where the reptilian stars of their proposed episodes of the reality-TV show The Gator Boys would be procured and had scouted a golf course where the crocs could be “spontaneously discovered” by terrified bystanders. Now they just had to wait for the Discovery Channel crocodile handlers to arrive — the fabled Gator Boys … 

As promised, the producer sent a reptile wrangler, Tre — whom we nicknamed Snake Man — to us in Mazatlán. His job was to help catch and transport the five reptiles from the Crocs-R-Us Farm to the Acuario Mazatlán aquarium, our expert partner in this endeavor. The manager, Jorge, had prepared an enclosure for the creatures.

Snake Man explained that, despite their appearance, crocodiles are hypersensitive when it comes to fluctuations in temperatures.

Since this was September in the tropics, hauling these five snappers 140 miles would require a temperature-controlled environment — not too hot, not too cold. We needed a large van, with an open cargo area and good air conditioning.

The Captured Tourist Woman (TCTW) was handling the more detailed requirements of this endeavor: accommodations, special entry visas, a catering service and transport of all the production personnel, actors and other items. The producer told us he’d arranged a couple of tour vans at our disposal.

Reality TV stars The Gator Boys. Discovery

When I approached our driver and asked about using one of his vans to haul crocodiles, his response was that he and the vans rented by the day, whether they hauled people or carnivorous reptiles. His remark seemed rather flippant, so I pushed for a commitment before he contemplated the many potential horrors of the downside.

Myself and the Snake Man spent an afternoon removing all the seats in one of the vans, except the two in front. We then taped down a continuous sheet of heavy black plastic, forming a tub, in case of croc crap.

The next morning, the Snake Man and our van driver headed out early for the three-hour journey to Crocs-R-Us.

When they returned in the afternoon, Snake Man looked a bit peaked, but the driver was downright green and drenched in sweat. Who knew that crocodiles discharged an abundance of runny excrement when stressed out?

The loathsome liquid, I was told, was sloshing in the black plastic tub at every bump and turn. Since the trip had brought only two crocs, another run would be needed the next day.

Our reptile wrangler was willing to do it again; after all, this was not his first croc haul, and he was a professional; but our driver balked. He started raving about massive compensation for his van, which would forever stink of croc crap.

It took an hour and several cold beers, along with a fistful of pesos, to quell his agitated state. We promised to pressure wash the interior of the van and then spray it with several gallons of Febreze ….. if we could please use it again? He finally relented and said we could use the van for one more haul, but he would have his partner drive.

Directly after our second trip, I was asked to build a couple of plywood boxes to contain the reptiles and whatever they might excrete for the short trips to our capture sites. The van driver let us know that he was seriously reluctant to haul the boxed crocs even the short distance to our staging areas during the weeks of filming.

I reasoned with him, explaining that his van smelled as bad as it ever would, so why not keep going? This was his opportunity to be a part of something truly epic, something he and his friends would talk about for years to come.

And there was a bonus: as a tour guide, he could regale his clients with tales of 10-foot predators riding in this very van! Just take a deep breath and savor the distinctive aroma of a Mexican crocodile.

Eventually, he acquiesced. For the first time in this escapade, I felt confident we would have reasonable transportation for the snappers.

Meanwhile, TCTW was busy stocking up on the various types of junk food and energy drinks the cast and crew required to get through the long days of shooting. It became apparent that, although it was difficult to find here, Monster energy drinks were one of the things that kept them going.

Imagine having this in the back of your van for a few hours.

I am neither a doctor nor a chemist, but the quantity of sugar and caffeine these people were projected to consume on a daily basis was frightening.

When I next talked with the producer, he told me that the plan was to record enough material for two shows by taking local side trips between the catches. I couldn’t help but envision something akin to National Lampoon’s Mexican Vacation.

The cast of the show included the two Gator Boys — Paul and Jimmy — with minor characters popping in and out between the life-threatening captures. The others included Jimmy’s girlfriend Ashley; Scott, who seemed to be the young prankster; and Tre the Snake Man.

There was a new directive from Eric, our Hollywood producer. We were to find a beautiful and very young Mexican woman who had perfect English. Eric also asked me to talk to Jorge at the aquarium to see if we could use the large boa constrictor in one of the aquarium displays.

Since the mayor had said nothing that would prevent us from doing a snake capture in the city, we thought we could plant the eight-foot boa in a local neighborhood and then have the Snake Man capture the 40-pound reptile.

Now we were only one week away from meeting the total cast and crew at the airport.

What scene will we shoot first? Will the condo gringos actually become hysterical when they see a croc in their pool? Will a load of croc crap add to their hysteria? Will we find a beautiful Mexican woman? Will her English be of a dialect understood by Florida rednecks?

Find out all this and more in the next edition of The Crocodile Chronicles.

The writer describes himself as a very middle-aged man who lives full-time in Mazatlán with a captured tourist woman and the ghost of a half-wild dog. He can be reached at [email protected].

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