Now I’m in Youngstown, Ohio. My name is Jim. Jim Widdebecker. I am in the business of birth and trade, trapping and selling — an exotics type deal — most of the time legal, sometimes less so — namely this is animals, specifically reptiles. And in this niche, I am a big fish, in a small pond.
I’m a one-man-show, mostly, and my work is performed mostly in the field. It’s not an easy job, and much of it is toil, but when I do hit my luck, I hit it hard. My most previous stint was in Glades County, Florida. There, let’s just say it was a boom and bust. It started out real hot, but when it cooled down I was left with no option but to call it quits. I don’t really consider it quits, though, more so I consider it survival. I had made a few, how they say, enemies, you could say. I made a few enemies. They’ll get over it.
I got a man in Illinois, he has a bounty out for me — $5,000, or so I’m warned. Reason being points to ten bloods, from three years ago. I made $2,000 dollars on that. That man, he’s a breeder, and he’s a shitty one at that, and now he wants me for that misfortune. I cut the man a deal. I honestly did. Because, if you know what you’re doing, which I expected in him, you know then what you get for the price I offer. If I had wanted to swindle the man, I would have charged the man $5,000, not $2,000. He got himself a deal.
See, you have to understand, people who order things like this, paying all that much money, they know what they’re doing — in this niche — they know what they’re buying, they know what I’m selling. This guy, he’s now got a bounty out for me — whether it’s legit or not I’m really not sure, all I know is I’m now a marked man — he truly ruined a good thing for me in Illinois. I was set real nice up there, doing wholesale, but next thing I knew I was out of state, out of business and back to trapping. So now I’m working my way back to get where was. I don’t have much choice, either, it’s not like I can sue the guy. Fuck that guy.
It’s hard to be, clean, I guess, in a business that has no rules — if you can understand this, what I mean by that — there are rules, but only ones that go with standard rules of trade, shipping and what not, common courtesies, things like that, but little else though because in exotics rules don’t mean much — in the way of how some of us do it — as far as the product itself. There’s a reason why people come to me, and it’s the same reason sometimes they chase me.
I don’t expect much, from people I meet. I expect them only to be temporary, and that I guess, is a mixture of the blames, it falls on both. But in that I’m talking about friends, not clients, although sometimes clients are both. I met Ciara, in Fort Lauderdale. Man, I love strippers. She’s a great stripper. Made out with me the first night I saw her, gave me her number, and we had a thing. For a little while. Her real name is Tammy. She’s gone now, though. I don’t know where she is. That’s how it goes. You just gotta roll with it. I always roll with it.
When I started trapping, in the Everglades, I was excited for sure. I knew I would catch a lot, there was a lot out there for me to go catch, but only two things I had in mind, really, I even cared to catch, and I knew both were unlikely catches, but still. Albino baby gators, baby american crocodiles. If I were to catch, even just one, of either one, I’d be set. Plain and simple. I’d be set. Very big money in those two things. Never caught either, though. Both are rarities — plus highly protected, at least the crocs that is.
It’s not without its risks, being out there like I was. For one thing, the animals can be dangerous, of course, but for another, park rangers aren’t too kind to people like myself. Neither is the law for that matter. You gotta go out there during nightfall in order to get away with anything, just to avoid rangers. This was risky, though. During the night, that’s when these animals are at their most dangerous; you find yourself met with little to no advantages when it’s pitch black, they’re hunting and you’re in their element.
Long story short the Everglades was extremely tough. It’s all wilderness. True wilderness. I might as well been in the Yukon and it would not been easier just different; it would be frostbite rather than heat stroke; bears, wolves and cougars rather than gators, crocs, panthers, and pythons. And actually, they even do got bears down there — I didn’t see any personally, but I do know for a fact some are out there. And even bull sharks, too, someone once told me. Point is, the Everglades is wilderness, and if you’re gonna be out there, you need to understand that.
Most my time there was limited to outskirts. I didn’t venture in too deep, but only because I didn’t have a boat. Even with knowing the risk, though, I’d do it, if I had a boat. Much of the money I pulled in was from marine toads, green tree frogs and fucking anoles. You can catch any of those — easily by the dozen, and you don’t even have to be in the Everglades to find them — but the return on those is not too great — rarely worth the effort it’s better left off to breeders and wholesalers. If you fancy yourself a trapper, you better trap something a bit more serious than a toad.
Other times, out there I’d catch cottonmouths, and diamondbacks, as both I found were everywhere. I’m not scared of those, not one bit, all you gotta do is hook them and sack them. I’d wear double jeans, with tall boots, as a precautionary measure, on any night I’d be out there; it’s always far more likely a snake will see you before you see it. The selling, though, of either of those snakes is usually black market, because in most states it’s illegal, and black market or not neither snake will pull you in very much money; people most usually prefer cobras, mambas, gaboons, when it comes to venomous, at least in the US they do, as the keyword with exotics, is exotic.
I saw three Burms out there — in all that time — swimming around in that water. Biggest one I saw was probably twelve-feet long. I didn’t waste my time with it. Burms are cool, and in fact they are maybe my favorite constrictor — I started out with Burms, many years ago — but Burms ain’t worth shit, anymore. Besides, I’m not gonna tangle with twelve feet of Burm, by myself, in the dark of night, knees deep in swamp water — it’s just not smart, especially since the thing is wild.
When you spend your whole life with animals, as I have, you come to trust them more than people. A burm, for example, the way it’s gonna react to you is very predictable. I won’t blame any animal for trying to hurt me, or even for trying to kill me. I’ve been on my own since I was a kid. This, is all I know, and these animals is how I support myself. I’ve been traveling from state to state for years. I’ll take back what I said about friends, because I do have a few friends — I do, and if not for them I’d have no clue where I’d be — I learned what I know from the few I do have. But many more strangers do I have than friends, and a few too many enemies, as well. I don’t mind strangers, not in the least, that’s business, that’s life, it’s the other I avoid.