Monday, May 10, 2010

Close Encounters of the Gator Kind

Our family just got back from a warm, wet and pretty wild week on Kiawah Island off the coast of SC. Kiawah is home to more than just tourists, outrageously huge, but rarely used beach mansions, and yard workers. The island’s natives include pelicans, dolphins, raccoons, bobcats, and gators.

It was mating season for the gators, and you could hear their throaty growls as they called to each other between lagoons. After lunch one day, we spotted a monster roaring for his reptilian amour off our back deck. I got so excited I yelled out, “Wow! Look at that! He’s Discovery Channel huge!”—thus revealing my dorkitude to the entire neighborhood.

Each afternoon, we would trek over to the pool, which hovered at the teeth-chattering 68 degrees. On one such trip, I was staring at my Croc-knockoffs, ignoring my five-year-old’s wail that something was in her sandal, again, and for me to fix it, like, now, when my husband called out, “Honey, STOP!”

Twenty feet away sat a ten-foot, who-knows-how-many-hundred pound American alligator right in front of the pool gate. We grabbed the children and stood there, contemplating our options. The pool was surrounding by a wire fence, so I suggested we jump it and go about our business of freezing to death in the pool.

After we were safely inside the fence, I asked my husband to go warn my mother, who planned on joining us. Her eyesight is worse than mine. While he was off on this task, a car came by and stopped, maybe five feet from the gator. Windows came down, a camera phone popped out. The car’s occupants must have wanted a better shot, because they left their SUV for a closer look.

Gators can move up to 30 mph for short distances, so I marveled as these people stood mere feet from their doom. Major Dufus Award, folks. Thank goodness they didn't have any children with them to dangle in front of the gator like, um, me. Okay, pass me a Dufus Award. Luckily, the gator accepted the gawking and frenzied picture taking graciously before lumbering off for the next lagoon in search of his lady love. I imagine George Clooney could sympathize.


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