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." Posted by Picasa

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 remember stay still, we don't want to tip the canoe near that gator do we?"

"No Daddy."

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.


"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.


Zanne said...

You're my kind of dad!!

Florida Jones and the River of Doom!

pablo said...

You couldn't have coordinated that better if you'd paid the alligator. Still, I'm glad we don't have them in Missouri (though some sharks have been seen in the river at St. Louis.

Hick said...

I have one rule in my family that must be obeyed at all costs:


You have just broken every rule in my book.

Floridacracker said...

When the sensible Mom is away, the Dad and trusting kids will play!

It seems we share cypress, brown-eyed susans, and now sharks. Are you sure Roundrock is in MO? I'm sure it was a bullshark that far upriver...

We really did go over a small waterfall and we did it with the video camera between my knees. It's one of our funnier short home movies!

Rexroth's Daughter said...

That is a fantastic tale. I bet your daughters will always remember that experience. I am grateful to say that we have no gators up here. We do have the beautiful orcas, though, and they can be a nuisance for people in small boats.

Floridacracker said...

My bride and I once walked out on Dungeness Spit in your neck of the woods. It was a misty day, very mystical, very, very beautiful with seals and seabirds. I was looking for Orcas, but alas it was not to be.

swamp4me said...

Hehe...Was your canoe an Old Town Tripper by any chance?

Anonymous said...

After that and the hornets, my girls are really bugging me to read them more of your stories! My youngest is nine now, and I think maybe she could relate to the canoe dash.

Floridacracker said...

That canoe was our wedding present from my folks back in '85. We have put a few miles and scratches on it since then.

Thanks, what a nice compliment. I have a few other "adventures" to share.

swamp4me said...

Just asked about the Tripper because that's what we have. It is a great canoe, very stable when kids (or great big ole labs) get excited and decide to move around at inconvenient times :)
But even at 17'2" it is very easy to handle solo -- can you tell I love my canoe?

Floridacracker said...

I can tell. I love ours too. Canoes are so excellent for slipping up on critters for a photo.
I can also relate to Lab-Canoe stability challenges!!

Rurality said...

You neglected to mention the number of gray hairs you gained from this adventure. :)

Floridacracker said...

I got 3 words or you...
Sabe? ;)

Katy said...

Couldn't wait to tell the world wide web of my speed and grace huh? I laughed so hard reading this, it's even funnier when you were there! Hahaha! I'll never forget that. Thanks for all the fun canoe trips. Wild Hog will be here before you know it. Better go for a practice run. I love you daddy! -Katy

Floridacracker said...

That would be my baby girl...