Thursday, August 18, 2005
Just Be Quiet As We Paddle Past This Gator...
Note: The massive gator in the photo is not the little 5-footer in the following true (as always) story. I took the above photo in the Savannah River National Wildlife Refuge in South Carolina.
A few years ago, I took my girls, Emma and Katie, canoeing on the Wild Waccasassa River. The Waccasassa is the site of a crazy canoe race once a year called the "Wild Hog Canoe Race". I have completed the Wild Hog race 3 times, once with each child. The race is insanely fun and tough with constant twists, a zillion log portages, sharp limerock, and the usual assortment of Florida critters, bugs, and poison ivy. Fortunately, the race only happens once a year, 'cause it takes about that long to heal up when it's over.
This was not race day however, simply a nice winter day out with my girls. We decided to paddle upstream for a while and then cruise lazily back with the current.
All went well. They occasionally wet their paddle, ate all the food in the first 15 minutes, and fussed over who would sit in the bow seat first. We were having a great time.
As we approached a bend in the river, I spotted an alligator up on the bank. It was about 5 feet long...just a youngster and not a threat.So I calmly said, " Ladies, look up ahead. See that big gator?"
Eyes big, nervous nods of the head, "Yes, Daddy".
"Well, we are going to slide right by him and it's important that you keep calm and sit still. Can you do that?
Nervous fidgeting, "Yes Daddy."
It was a chilly day and this gator was sunning and just trying to warm up. When they are sunning on a cold day, they are reluctant to slide back into the chilly water, so I figured we would probably slide by without any reaction from the gator.
"Okay, here we go...now remember stay still, we don't want to tip the canoe near that gator do we?"
In the bow of the canoe, Katie (only about 9 at the time) is really getting squirmy. She knows that her end of the canoe is going to get to that gator first.
We glide closer.
"Keep still girls, this is it." As we pass within 8 feet of the gator, he suddenly does this flip-flop lightening fast, splashy dive into the water and glides beneath the canoe.
Simultaneously, Katie STANDS UP IN THE CANOE AND RUNS TO THE STERN, LEAPING OVER EMMA IN THE PROCESS!
"Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!"
She's hugging me, the canoe is wallowing like crazy, and Emma, poor Emma is gripping the gunwales of the canoe with a death grip watching the gator's bubble trail as it swam beneath us.
I had never seen someone run the length of a 17 foot canoe without falling out or tipping it over until that day.
Eventually, Kate let go of my neck and we pried Emma's fingers from the hull of the canoe. The rest of the canoe trip was pretty uneventful, except for going over that waterfall...just a little one and it seemed anticlimatic after the gator splash dash.
Posted by R.Powers at 5:48 AM