POST FALLS - When R.J. Molinere's wife returned to college, there was the option of putting their 3-year-old son in day care or throwing a life jacket on him and having him ride along with Molinere during alligator-hunting trips.
Cajuns are not known for living on easy street, and gator hunting is in the Molinere family blood.
So it was on with life on the swamp and out with getting pushed on a swingset.
Molinere and his son, Jay Paul, now 23, are stars on the History Channel reality series "Swamp People." They are members of Louisiana's Houma Indian Nation and featured guests at this weekend's Julyamsh pow wow hosted by the Coeur d'Alene Tribe at the Greyhound Park and Event Center.
Alligator hunting, along with shrimping, trapping and crabbing, have been a way of life for the father-son team for the past 20 years.
"That's why we have a bond," the dad said. "Jay Paul is not only my son, but he's my co-worker, buddy and a brother. We're close, and I thank God that we are."
Jay Paul has grown up living on the edge. When he's not cruising the swamp looking for the longest alligator he can land, he's fighting in the mixed martial arts cage or boxing ring.
"I like to do anything that's an adrenaline rush," said Jay Paul, who is 5-0 in MMA, a two-time Gold Gloves boxing champing and four-time arm-wrestling champion.
R.J. said he's proud of his son's accomplishments.
"I was an athlete, so I don't want to tell him differently," the dad said. "Sports are good for the mind. I just wouldn't want to glove up with him or go into the cage with him. We can handle ourselves, and I say that in a good way."
The father-son team were on the second and third seasons of "Swamp People." The third season ran from Feb. 9 to July 12. The series follows the day-to-day activities of Louisiana alligator hunters during the month-long gator season.
While participants of the next series won't be announced until August, R.J. said he believes that he and Jay Paul will be on again.
Last year the father and son filled 545 alligator tags. Their longest prize was nearly 14 feet.
"That's a lot of alligators in 30 days," said R.J., adding that no other teams had more than 500. "We don't see (the TV series) as a competition - we're just going out and doing our job - but I think that would make us kings of the swamp."
R.J. said the show has been good because it has educated the public on a Cajun culture and it has accurately portrayed the life of alligator hunters.
The pay for alligators was around $80 at one point, but the price plummeted to $27 last year. A season's worth of catches isn't enough to survive on for the rest of the year, so the two also go trapping, crabbing and shrimping to supplement living off the land's resources.
"Fishing and hunting alligators is not only tradition and a lifestyle, but it helps keep the ecosystem in balance so alligators don't become overpopulated," Jay Paul said.
The two have avoided serious injuries on the swamp. Jay Paul said he doesn't think about the dangers.
"You always have to keep an open mind and give gators respect," he said.
But they realize things could change on any given day.
"Every morning when you turn on the key to the boat, you don't know if you'll be coming home," R.J. said. "You have to respect what you do and focus all the time because alligators will not play with you."
• The Julyamsh powwow continues today and Sunday. R.J. Molinere and his son Jay Paul, stars on the History Channel reality series "Swamp People," will be at a booth today from 2-4 p.m. and from 6-8 p.m. for autographs and photo ops. Grand entries, which feature dancers in full regalia, will be held at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. today and 1 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is free.
Matthew Clements, 19, donnes his traditional garb, much of which has been passed down for generations, for the beginning ceremony of the 2012 Julyamsh Powwow in Post Falls.
RJ Molinere, right, from the show Swamp People, embraces Shaina Nomee, left, after the Swamp People question and answer session at the 2012 Julyamsh Powwow in Post Falls Friday night.
Trista, left, and daughter Nakomi Mike, right, prepare for the beginning ceremony of the 2012 Julyamsh Powwow Friday evening. Nakomi, like many of the performers at Julyamsh, has been dancing in such ceremonies for as long as she can remember.
Keeli Kirk, 17, left, has an eagle feather put in her hair by her aunt Angela Leigh, right, prior to the Julyamsh 2012 beginning ceremony Friday evening.