Have you ever had some trivial news story stick in your mind? A story that had no current bearing in your life at that moment, yet somehow still stuck? One of those Yahoo News type stories that implanted in my brain was the one about a killed alligator found with many dog collars in its gut. Seems like the gator would hear the dogs coming by the jangling of their collars. The reptile would then get in a striking position and wait until the dog came close enough. Easy snack. I found this tidbit of worthy news very disturbing. I made note to never to wear jangly jewelry.
When we made the decision to head south, my dislike for anything alligator became an ongoing sort of joke in my family. I admitted that I once ate a fried nugget of alligator meat (tasted like fried, chewy lobster, not chicken). This folly, I knew, would be the death of me if ever I encountered a live one. They’ll smell it and then swear vengeance. YOU look at their faces and tell me otherwise. There’s nothing kind or forgiving about them.
We landed in Florida and parked at the Falling Waters State Park outside of Chipley. Stunningly beautiful. Lots of nature trails. Thickly forested. In the morning, we decide to stretch our legs and hike before getting back on the road.
We are walking on raised wooden walkways around the tallest hill in Florida. We found an actual water fall in Florida! We come across a man-made pond with swimming buoys in it.
Back and forth my eyes are darting.
Me: Think there are any alligators around here?
Lauré goes on and on how this is not habitation that alligators like, and that I’m being silly. Besides, poor Florida is in a drought.
Not one minute later, and I mean not ONE minute later, we come up to this sign:
I send this picture to my protective big sister who shares my distrust of these prehistoric creatures. We are both in agreement that I can never let my guard down.
The next night we are staying in a very primitive area called Gores Landing Park. The Spanish mossed trees form a huge, canopy over us. The amplified bird calls are strange and if you closed your eyes, you’d swear you were on the Jungle Boat ride at Disneyland.
He lies alongside a bunch of fallen tree branches perpendicular to the flow of the river. His eyes on us. My eyes on him. He stays like this forever. Probably planning his revenge for my consuming his great-great someone.
Lauré is cool as a cucumber and not concerned at all.
L: He’s too far away. Don’t worry about him.
Me, not even convincing myself: Ya, sure.
A few seconds pass.
Me: Time to go.
L is a good sport so we leave without incident or teeth marks.
My protective big sister calls me. She’s just read a story about a 10 year old girl in Florida who was attacked by an alligator. The creature had her by her leg. She remembers something she was taught at some alligator zoo. Their noses are sensitive. (Who would have known?)
The girl first tries punching the nose of the beast to no avail. Then she sticks her fingers in its nostrils. Guess what? That works. It lets go of her and she escapes.
Stacey is telling me this for my own future safety if ever in need. I decide to practice.
We’re out riding our bikes the other morning. Found a great bike and walking path. In one part it goes around an elementary school and an adjacent park. The path winds around two big ponds. What’s lurking in those ponds? Alligators. Right next to the school.
You better believe that if I get a flat tire anywhere near those ponds, I’m going to keep riding on my rims. Fast.