Ole Hardhide Alligator Jazz Funeral _____________________________________________________ _____________________________________________________ I just know before I write this that, unless you live in Louisiana, you are not going to believe this. Nevertheless it is true! I was raised in a small town called Ponchatoula. The name is an Indian name meaning Hanging Hair! I suppose from all the moss that hangs from trees around the area! Ponchatoula is the Strawberry Capital of the world. I am not quite sure when Ole Hardhide came into existence
He was not there when I was a kid. But he was there when our children were small. Let me explain: Ole Hardhide is an Alligator. Not just any old alligator, but a special one. One that had a home right smack dab in the middle of town. His home was right next to the rail road tracks. If you drive through the town you will see his home with a tall cylclone fence around his home. I mean, after all, we surely didn't want Ole Hardhide to get hurt, now did we? No siree! Well, for years Ole Hardhide was the pet of the town. I don't know how long Ole Hardhide lived but his death drew National attention. The Ponchatoula Times January 24, 1985 Special Issue OLE Hardhide's Death Draws National Notice Ole Hardhide, the alligator went out as he lived, with style. His death was discovered late, but mourned widely, with news of it vying for prominence with the inauguration of the President of the United States , and the Super Bowl on national wire services and television news shows. The gator's death and subsequent jazz funeral was broadcast for the nation through every news medium on hour by hour basis for over four days.
Reporters from Chicago, Detroit, New York, Memphis, Atlanta, and points in between contacted The Ponchatoula Times for information on the nation's only journalist reptile. Six separate T.V. stations were represented with film crews and reporters at the funeral. (Now I know you can't believe this! Ole Hardhide got more attention than some people that were really in need. That's my prospective.) Cable television networks, CBS, NBC and at least one network morning show gave attention to Ponchatoula's loss. Over 2,000 attended the reptiles organized by the mayor . Harry McKneely handled the bizzare funeral with all the care and consideration of his profession. Steve Pugh donated the lavish floral wreaths and the Pugh family provided a private burial on their land near the southern swamps. An Attorney and a Doctor bore traditional jazz funeral sashes and unbrellas. ( How rediculous can people get? I wonder if that attorney would offer help to someone in need or if that doctor would offer free services to someone. I doubt it but that is just my perspective!) A surrey bearing the state senator and the city's first lady led the procession, followed by the mayor, state represenative and city counsilman. Behind them came the jazz band in tuxedoes donated by Royale Oake . (Something is wrong! A dead alligator, making national news, going town the streets of Ponchatouala. The news media, the state senator, the mayor, the first lady of the town, the counsilmen, a jazz band all in Tuxs. I wouldn't believe it either but I happen to know these people.) Well it seems Ole Hardhide had a son, or was it great grandson, who wrote the obituary. Opps! Hardhide don't like that. He is headed toward my yard! R.I.P. Ole Hardhide SR. _________________________ MY PONCHATOULA By OLE HARDHIDE, JR. THE Alligator
Words can't express what I've gone through these past few days but in the spite of my Dad I'm going to try anyway. First of all we had better clear up the little detail that I am able to do this in the first place. I assure you one and all that I do not come to this news career untutored or unprepared. The Ole man himself saw to that. He was only too aware of the pressures that went into the greatest green alligator in this whole big swampy earth. Maybe that's what got him in the end, or the cold, or missing my mother, Ole Swampbreath all these years (with the exception of an odd night out on the town) we'll just never know! One thing I do know is that early on he had his replacement in mind - ME-! I knew that more than our commom pink strawberry birthmark under the left front armpit linked our destinies. While other young gators were practicing swallowing short swimmers without gagging on their face mask, snorkels and swimming fins, I was kept busy practicing my typing. While my buddy gators joined fisherman eating clubs and anti-shoe and belt industries lobby groups, I was kept busy sneaking into secret meetings with bulky tape recorders. Most of my journalism lessons in later years, after Dad gave himself up to the public service in this same gator cage where I write this column, were held late at night so that my existence could be kept a secret until the day Ponchatoula needed me. That's when he told me things.
At first it was technical stuff from his elaborate filing system, though it was the kind of information that would send many a strong breeze rattling through the skeltoned closets of local politicos. After I began to master this he lightened up a bit, offering his sub-sidewalk opinions on the well turned calves of what has become MY Ponchatoula! That's right, I'm going to keep the column name the same as in the days of my dad. And since there is no longer Hardhide Sr. anywhere in the wide and luxurious swamplands of America, after this column, I'll be dropping the Jr. after my name. I am Ole Hardhide, the greatest green gator anywhere on earth, the reptile reporter with sources in place where other reporters don't even have places, the nipper of scalawags and n'erdo-well, praiser of pretty ladies and and outrageous gentlemen, feared by gator hunters and hide sellers, loved by lovers everywhere, and subject to control whatsoever by fat (and his wife says balding)editors named Pinchpenny. Dad told me about Pinchpenny and the measly wildly flapping chicken per week he was paid for writing the most widely read column in America. I told Pinchpenny right from the start that this gator was a Newspaper guild gator who would not settle for a feather less than the union scale of two wildly-flapping chickens per week per week (given the circumstances . Pinchpenny was quick to give in. So here I float, in dad's own small cage, with his flies so much more extensive than even Jack Anderson's safe in the pond basement, knowing all that he could teach me as well as all I could learn on my own on the outside. And I am ready to write to you, ready to chronicle your loves and affections. __________________________________________________________________ True story! I did not make this up, or did I?