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CNN Today

Seminole Indians: Alligator Wrestlers Wanted, Will Train

Aired September 14, 2000 - 2:55 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, you can always tell when a news show is about to come to an end because there is nine times out of 10 an animal story of some sort. And today it's about gator wrestling.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, and it is a tight labor market, as you well know. And it seems that John Zarrella will tell us that it's tough to find a good gator wrestler these days.

WATERS: You can imagine.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Treat it just like the jaws are open, cover his eyes. Nope, nope, nope, you were bit right there!

JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You're looking at a job training program, and Lance Holmquist is one of the few takers. He's training for the day that Scratch the alligator won't have his jaws taped shut.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As soon as you mess up, he's going to come right to life on you and let you know that you messed up.

ZARRELLA: So, who in his right mind wants to wrestle alligators? Well, not too many people, and that's a problem for the Seminole Indian Tribe of Florida. The art of gator grappling was handed down, as long as you didn't lose your hands, from generation to generation. Gator wrestling shows are a mainstay at Seminole tourist attractions, but the new generation of Seminoles wants more out of life.

ALEXANDRA FRANK, SEMINOLE SPOKESWOMAN: A lot of us want to be news reporters. A lot of us want to be auto mechanics, truck drivers, and you can't find that on the reservation.

ZARRELLA: To keep the shows going, the Seminoles are looking off the reservation, taking out a want ad for gator wrestlers. Holmquist was one of the few to apply for the $8-an-hour job.

LANCE HOLMQUIST, JOB APPLICANT: The pay's not that good, but the benefits are pretty good. I'd like to find out what those benefits are. Maybe I get a caddy or something?

ZARRELLA: Maybe a hearse, if you're not careful. Last winter, Seminole Chief James Billie lost a finger while performing a gator show.

CHIEF JAMES BILLIE, SEMINOLE TRIBE OF FLORIDA: This one here actually lifted me up, opened his jaws, and grabbed half of my fingers right in here, and that's when I knew I was in trouble.

ZARRELLA: The chief hasn't gotten up close and personal with a gator since, but the Seminoles say they will find and train people to carry on their tradition, because the show must go on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See you later, alligator.

ZARRELLA: John Zarrella, CNN, Miami.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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