To the editor:
I was fascinated by your April 7 article “Grown-up gators a challenge for Missouri town.”
In the 1950s, when I was about 8 and growing up in Wichita, a long, thin mystery box arrived in the mail. It came from my grandfather, a Kansas Citian, who was vacationing in Florida. My three siblings and I were spellbound when a small alligator — maybe a foot long — exited the cardboard box. We named it Mergatroid and alternately kept it in the bathtub or a large bucket on the front porch.
We were a hit with the neighborhood kids who visited often over the next month or so, not shrieking too loudly when Mergatroid bit them — which he regularly did.
He grew and one day disappeared, only to turn up a few months later living under the small, scenic stone bridge that crossed the creek about a block from our house (now all consumed by the Via Christi/Wesley Medical complex).
He was too big and wild for us to catch, so the Wichita Zoo sent a man out to lasso him, and Mergatroid became a zoo resident. I’ll never forget the grinning zoo officer standing by the creek holding the nearly hypnotized Mergatroid on his back and stroking his tummy gently. The little alligator loved it. It was a reassuring send-off.
As we grew up, my siblings and I realized that sending a baby Florida alligator to Kansas was a poor idea — cruel and probably usually a death sentence for the little critter. I think it’s against the law by now.
But what a time we had!