I remember when I first saw Denver in the Woolworth’s pet department. There were all these 8-inch long baby alligators in a five gallon fish tank. They werenâ€™t actually alligators. They were South American Caiman — a sub-species of Crocodillian. So there he was … about three times the size of the others. Same price: $3. I bought him and brought him home. I was still living with my parents; I was 18 at the time.
I put him in a cut-in-half 50 gallon drum. After a while, the smell was so bad from the foul water … even with frequent draining … that something had to be done.
So I constructed a 6-ft x 4-ft. x 18-in. deep wood and fiberglass tank with a filter and heater. I brought this into my bedroom, much to the dismay of my parents. There was only enough room for my twin bed and the tank. Oh, and by this time Denver had company … a slightly smaller partner I named Lady.
The tank worked great and Denver only climbed out once. That was an adventure. The problem was the mold growing on the walls and windows. So I started sleeping in the living room. And Denver and Lady got bigger and bigger.
Then I constructed a top for the tank and moved it outside with electrical for the filter and heating. That was fine until they got pretty big, and during the hot summer I had a hard time feeding them as they were constantly trying to climb out.
One day I cut the opening and they came out, and I spent the whole day prying Denver off the chicken wire as he tried to climb out. One time, months later, he did get out and after a tense search by friends and family he was spotted in the fish pond. That was another adventure — getting him out and back in his yard.
When I sent them to Florida, they were about six feet long. I had to send themaway because I was going to graduate school and couldn’t take them. That was one of the saddest and hardest things I have ever had to do.
I still miss them.