by Sharon Spence Lieb
When you meet a 13-foot alligator named Al, remember two important rules: Don’t call him Albert. And for heavens sake, don’t sit on his tail. Kent Turner, an intrepid wildlife expert working at Gator Country Adventure Park, ignores both rules.
“Hey ya, Albert,” he calls out softly, “How ya doin’?” Kent strolls behind the beast, straddles Big Al’s tail and settles down like it’s his favorite recliner.
Al hisses, his gargantuan mouth showing off double rows of dagger teeth. He’s just gorged on 55 pounds of raw chicken. Kent and Al bond, as only a crazy human and a well-fed gator can.
Kids: don’t try this at home. Better to visit the wildest attraction in Beaumont, Tex.
MUSEUMS AND MORE
Considered the “Museum Capital of Texas,” Beaumont’s museums are fascinating and eclectic. For example, you learn about the history of the oil industry at the Texas Energy Museum, the work of fire fighters at the Fire Museum of Texas and the life of Olympic gold-medalist/athlete Babe Didrikson Zaharias at the museum and visitors center named for one of Beaumont’s favorite daughters. And that’s just a small sample of the museums you find.
At Vallie Marie Day Spa, all of the Southern belle spa ladies look like Miss Texas. They escort you through their gorgeous mansion to high ceilinged rooms where you lie on soft, heated massage tables for exquisite massages.
Willie Ray’s Bar-B-Cue, a cafeteria-style mom and pop restaurant, smells like heaven on earth. You slide your tray past pork in tangy tomato sauce, beef ribs in spicy brown sauce, juicy brisket, sweet potato casserole, collard greens, cabbage, mac ‘n’ cheese, green beans, fries dusted in Texas Joy Spice, and thick slabs of corn bread.
When asked “What would you like, honey?” you answer, “Everything, please.”
If you’re lucky, owners Jack and Cindy Harrington stop by to say hello and make sure you have dessert: Red Velvet Cake with vanilla icing so thick you could use it as a pillow.
“I can’t eat another bite,” you protest. But you find the strength to inhale a massive slice.
When folks here say, “I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could,” that’s because the food is that good.
For more information, contact the Beaumont Convention and Visitors Bureau at 800/392-4401 or www.beaumontcvb.com