Mike Bell: Cowboy, Alligator Wrestler

Being an American in France has given me, rightly or wrongly, a certain mystique thanks to the preconceptions of my French family and friends. Some of their preconceptions, of course, are not ones I readily embrace, however true they might be. Others, I tend to play up, however true they might not be. One of those embraceable preconceptions is that I’m some sort of cowboy.

Part of the attraction of “America” for some French people, I think, is the image of the cowboy as an American stereotype. Now, I’m certainly no Marlboro Man and I’d say I’m prone to being booted out of most roadhouses, but I have been on a horse, I have country line danced, and I do walk with a certain thumb-in-pocket swagger, even on the cobblestones of Paris. Growing up in the Deep South — in the country — and speaking with a certain drawl about subjects like hunting, tractors, and country-western music give me a certain “cowboy credibility” here … even though I’m a vegetarian, I’ve only shot my father’s rifle a handful of times, and the most farm work I’ve ever done was picking beans in my parents’ garden. Nevertheless, if they want to see me as a cowboy, I’m more than happy to oblige.

Last week, when I was in South Carolina, my parents and I traveled down to Hilton Head to visit my aunt and uncle. Now, we all know that Hilton Head is not exactly the Okefenokee, but I knew there’d be alligators there and I was anxious to snap a few good shots to impress Michel, who was back in France. The evening after we arrived, my uncle and I went out searching for alligators in the neighborhood and just when we thought there were none to be found, we happened upon a big daddy gator sunning himself on the bank of a pond. Like an American Crocodile Dundee, I sprang into action … Continue reading Mike Bell: Cowboy, Alligator Wrestler