The Brownwood Bulletin received some special visitors on Wednesday afternoon when Gary Saurage of Gator Country brought some of his animal friends by for a visit.
Saurage is in town for the annual Lone Star Fair & Expo that begins on Friday at the Brownwood Coliseum. Saurage has brought a variety of alligators, snakes and other animals to Brownwood for display in the show.
Dallas, a 6-year-old, five foot long alligator, roamed around the Bulletin office while Saurage discussed the friendly reptile. “I have the largest alligator park west of the Mississippi River,” Saurage said, describing his Beaumont sanctuary. Saurage said he has about 560 alligators in the park.
“I’m the lead nuisance alligator hunter for the state of Texas,” Saurage said.
Dallas, whose favorite meal is raw chicken, was hatched at Gator Country and carefully trained by Saurage to never open his mouth except at feeding time. Several Bulletin employees were even able to hold the docile alligator.
Saurage said that alligators in the wild are no laughing matter, though. “Alligators in the mud can run up to 22 miles an hour. Really fast for a short distance,” he said. “That’s why they’ve got … webbed feet. A lot of people think that’s for swimming, but they swim with their tail. They use their webbed feet to walk in the mud.
“So how do you get away from an alligator that’s chasing you? A lot of people say zig-zag. I did that show for MythBusters on Discovery, and the alligator zigged faster than I could zag. I got bit on my left foot,” Saurage said.
He also said climbing trees is an ineffective escape tactic because the alligator will simply wait at the base. “The only successful way to get away from an alligator when he’s chasing you and your buddy,” Saurage said, “is to trip your buddy.”
Saurage also brought a timber rattlesnake into the office. Saurage said the snake has one of the most venomous bites in the world — fortunately, it seemed content to sit quietly on the office floor.
Saurage will do four educational programs at the Lone Star Fair & Expo this weekend. The Saturday shows begin at 1 and 6 p.m., while Sunday’s start at 1 and 4 p.m.
“At the end, I’ve got a 10-foot alligator,” Saurage said. “He’s not trained. I’ll take the tape off his mouth and show everyone how I catch him one-handed. It’s about an hour-long show with snakes, turtles, tortoises. There’s a whole bunch of stuff that we bring out.”
Saurage said visitors will have the opportunity to hold and take pictures with Dallas and other, smaller alligators.
Patrick McLaughlin leads the Brownwood Jaycees, which organizes the Lone Star Fair & Expo each year. He said he’s excited to have Gator Country in this year’s show. “I think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” McLaughlin said. “This is the first time we’ve ever had alligators at the event. It’s also one of the first times we’ve ever had someone who is so knowledgeable about different species of snakes and alligators that are able to educate the public.”
The fair begins on Friday from 3 to 8 p.m. It continues on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 12 to 5 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults 13 and up and $3 for children.