I’m not into reptiles. When my son Jason wanted a snake for a pet as a boy, I put my foot down and firmly said, “No Way!” I think we did once have a turtle the boys kept in a box and fed lettuce for a week before we let the poor thing go. There was also a hermit crab in the long list of critters that came home in my little boys’ pockets when they were growing up – but I don’t think a crab is a reptile, although it has to be pretty darn close.
Moving to the lake got me a lot closer to reptiles than I ever wanted to be. Living on the water in the south brings with it snakes, turtles, fish, lizards . . . and alligators. I’m a little more tolerant of snakes now – don’t want one for a pet, but I can calmly scream for Ted to come shoot one now – instead of frantically screaming. And I’ve actually developed a certain fondness for the little green lizards that populate our deck – especially the ones that are now tail-less, thanks to a certain weinie dog. The only problem tail-less lizards present is when one accidently slips into the house, and I find it hiding somewhere in the bedroom. It’s really hard to pick up a tail-less lizard (and yes, I actually will do that without screaming for Ted). On the other hand, alligators are a species of reptiles I don’t ever want to get up close and personal with, tail-less or otherwise.
My first experience with a gator happened when we first moved to the lake and rented a house on a creek across the river from where we live now. A couple lived next door who had three labrador retrievers – all chocolate. They warned us one afternoon that a gator had taken to swimming by their dock every afternoon around 5 p.m., and they figured it was scoping out the dogs (a favorite treat of gators – although they usually leave the big ones alone). But this was a big gator. After a week or two of “watching”, the gator seemed to have given up and moved on to happier hunting grounds. That weekend our neighbor decided to take the dogs swimming off his dock and . . . . . I bet you already know where this is heading. They were happily splashing away about halfway across the creek when our neighbor saw all three dogs suddenly look directly at something over his shoulder, then turn rapidly in unison and start swimming for the shore. He turned slowly in the water and found himself almost eyeball to eyeball with the big gator. Now our neighbor swears he walked on water for the 60 seconds it took him to get to shore, but we didn’t see that so I can’t verify it. Happily for him and his three dogs, they all made it out of the water safely. Unhappily for the gator, our neighbor called the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), who spent the next couple of days waiting on the gator to show himself again – at which time they shot him. (Residents aren’t legally allowed to shoot gators, but in the case of a “nuisance” gator, i.e. one that might eat dogs and children and grown-ups, DNR will be happy to come out and dispatch the offending creature to gator Heaven, where he becomes much more useful as someone’s new belt, purse, or shoes.)
Since moving across the river fourteen years ago, we have seen three gators – one swimming by out beyond our boathouse, one swimming right off our seawall, and the one Ted saw Thursday afternoon – by far the biggest we’ve seen so far. I was in Albany so I missed the whole thing, but Ted was standing at the kitchen sink when he heard Maddie going crazy in the backyard. Thinking she was after a snake, he ran outside just in time to see this gator swimming between our dock and the dock next door.
Ted said the gator was at least seven feet long, although he did not personally go out into the water with a measuring tape. The gator swam under the dock that belongs to the little park next door and settled in to case the neighborhood. This dock is used daily by people putting in their boats and by children in the neighborhood, who swim off the dock and seawall.
Ted walked to the nearby houses, knocking on doors, and letting people (especially the ones with children) know about the unwelcome visitor. We haven’t seen Mr. Gator anymore this weekend, but if he shows up again, there is a good chance DNR will be getting a phone call. Hmmmm – seven feet of gator equals how many wallets . . . .
Header: The ducklings were finally big enough to get up on the seawall today. Mr. and Mrs. flew over the fence, then called for the babies to join them. They had a great time pecking up birdseed under the feeder. They’ve lost three babies – originally there were nine. Turtles and big fish will all take baby ducks . . . . and there is that gator. Hopefully, they won’t lose anymore.