To my way of thinking, a trip to southwest Florida isn’t complete without alligators. Spotting at least one gator every day is always at the top of my wish list, well above gorging on fresh shrimp or plunging into the ocean no matter how cold the water is.
Darkness was falling on a warm March evening as three friends and I headed to the condo where we’d be spending a few days. It looked like Day One of our vacation was going to be a bust. Last year, we’d seen a slew of gators, oftentimes several on one outing. But this day we’d seen none. And even if they were out and about now, which was likely because they’re nocturnal creatures, it was too dark to see them.
Suddenly “Sis,” who was driving, swerved to miss something darting across the road.
“What was that?” I hollered. It for sure wasn’t any of the animals we dodge in Tennessee. Not a dog or a cat. Not a skunk or a possum. And definitely not a squirrel.
“That was a little gator!” Sis exclaimed. “I hope I didn’t hit him.”
“Mom” and “Auntie” were sitting in the back seat. “Turn around!” they said in unison. “If he’s hurt, we need to help. And even if he’s not, Jennie has to get close enough to get credit for a sighting.”
Sis made a U-turn. So did the man behind us, who was driving a snazzy convertible. In the beam of our headlights, we soon saw the little gator. He was about two feet long and was lying by the side of the road. We all gathered in a circle around him. “I didn’t see him in time to miss him,” the man said. It sounded like he was choking back tears. “I feel just terrible.”
The words were no sooner out of his mouth than the gator began trying to scramble up the concrete curb. It was too steep. The gator flipped onto his back, legs churning and tail thrashing. “He’s alive!” Mom hollered. She stepped closer and bent over the little fellow. “He doesn’t look mashed anywhere,” she said, “and I can’t see any blood. He was probably just stunned. Let’s move him to the grass and see if he’ll just walk off.”
“He’ll bite you,” the man with the snazzy convertible said.
But Mom–who’s not afraid of anything, including an upside-down adolescent alligator—managed (with the help of a pair of sturdy gloves and the handle of Auntie’s cane, which she used to pin the gator’s head) to pick him up and send him on his way. So this story has a happy ending. The gator, we assume, lived and made his way to his destination. And I got credit for an up-close-and-personal sighting on Day One of my trip to Florida.
What happened a couple of days later was even more exciting.
(April 23, 2017)