The explanation for this starts with cleaning out the garage. Unfortunately, we found rodents in same, which had chewed up some of the old papers we stored there 🙁 (I think it ate the paper certificate for my bachelor’s degree but I’m not sure. It ate something from the University of California.) So I had to go through several boxes and sort out the things that I wanted to keep and look at, to bring in the house for safer storage.
Some of the boxes had papers from my school days (so that’s where my high school yearbooks were), which I think we salvaged when we moved my mother out of the Napa house in 1994. Among them was a single sheet of 5 x 7 lined notebook paper, torn out of a spiral binding, covered in my adolescent handwriting. It’s not dated; could be from high school or college, probably not before that. Apparently I thought this was so funny that I copied it down and put it away with my college class notebooks, which I stored in the house in Napa, and my mother saved it through the next thirty years. Mother was a major pack rat, and I come by it honestly myself.
So here is the recipe for How to Catch an Alligator, just as I wrote it down fifty-some years ago:
You need: a beer can, a pup tent, a copy of Romeo and Juliet, a club, binoculars, and tweezers.
You beat the alligator over the head with the club so he will start chasing you. Since a person can run faster than a ‘gator [Ed. note: in light of later experience I don’t think this is true, so don’t try this at home!], you get to the tent first. You wait awhile and the alligator doesn’t get there, so you start to read Romeo and Juliet, which is so dry you fall asleep. Meanwhile the alligator arrives, sees the book, starts to read it and falls asleep. Now, if you go to sleep first, you wake up first, so when you wake up, you grab the binoculars and look at the alligator through the wrong end. This makes him look about 1½ inches long and you can pick him up with the tweezers and put him in the beer can.
As I copied this, I realized that no one who has actually read Romeo and Juliet would describe it as dry (certainly no one who’s seen the Zeffirelli film!), which argues that this little gem dates from my high school years, before I studied Shakespeare in college.