Big Tooth
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Demise of Reptilian ‘Big Tooth’ drew crowds

By W. T. Block

Reprinted from the Beaumont Enterprise, Saturday January 2, 1999.

W. T. Block with Big Tooth in July 1929 and Old Block Home in Background

NEDERLAND -- It was early July of 1929, and the Neches River had just returned to within its banks. A month earlier, there had been long torrential rains throughout East Texas, causing it to rampage out of its banks until it was 2 miles wide at Port Neches Park.

One morning I went down to pump out the boats at our boat landing on Block’s Bayou, in place of my brother Broomtail, who was ill. Immediately I saw a huge alligator, half of its body above water and swimming slowly toward the mouth of the bayou.

I quickly ran up the bluff toward our barnyard, screaming for Dad to bring his 73 Winchester and kill old "Big Tooth." Dad had already left for the field, but a neighbor, Roy Sterling, was still in the barnyard, hitching up a team of mules.

As Roy ran for the boat landing, Mama handed him the loaded Winchester. Roy began rowing the big skiff toward the alligator, which by then was already swimming out the mouth of the bayou and into the river.

As Roy rowed into the river, he could still see "Big Tooth," as the big croc swam slowly toward the north in the direction of the Magpetco (Mobil) docks. Roy allowed the skiff to glide slowly beside the gator, and when he was even with its head, Sterling shot old "Big Tooth" in the ear.

Roy got a large loop of a rope around the big alligator’s head, but he also quickly backed the boat away to escape the thrashing of his tail. Later Roy towed the big croc back into Block’s Bayou to our boat landing.

Because "Big Tooth’s" weight was estimated at 1,000 pounds, Sterling had to use the team of mules to pull the alligator out of the bayou. "Big Tooth" soon created a local sensation, and for 3 days or more, there was a constant stream of Model T and Model A cars parked down at our farm house, for everyone wanted to sit on the alligator and have his photograph taken. A photograph of ‘Big Tooth’ appears on page 135 of Sapphire City of The Neches.

"Big Tooth" measured only 2 inches short of 15 feet long and was estimated to be 60 years old. His mouth measured 32 inches from the tip of his snout to the end of his jaw, where his teeth stopped.

One person believed that the big alligator was possibly ill and had drifted down on the flood tides from Angelina River. As of 1930, large alligators ten feet or longer had already been hunted to near extinction in the vicinity of Sabine Lake.

Beause of the smell, Sterling eventually had to stack drift wood and pour crude oil on ‘Big Tooth’ and set him ablaze, but not before about 500 people got to see him and snap photos.

Because of the lack of television or other amusements around the then-small town of Port Neches, old "Big Tooth" provided each with a moment of mirth, much like the big whale at Port Arthur had provided in 1910. And nearly everyone commented that ‘Big Tooth’ could also have provided an hour of grief if the big croc had caught a small child in his jaws.

W. T. Block of Nederland is a historian and author.  His website is http://block.dynip.com/wtblockjr. This database is very large (150 articles) and is intended as an area history source for students.

Copyright 1998-2018 by W. T. Block. All rights reserved.
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