Saturday, August 27, 2005

Red Eyes At Night, Gator's Gonna Bite

Here follows a tale in which the names have been changed to protect the ...

About 4 years ago, this guy...we'll call him Smiley, walked down to his pond at night with the flashlight. At the time, Florida was in a drouty period and the pond had shrunk considerably. When water holes begin to dry up, gators will go on the move looking for wetter habitats. Smiley and his wife...we'll call her Patience, had noticed several gators crossing the road lately, in fact Patience had found it necessary to stop and let an 8 footer cross before she could proceed.

Smiley felt like he should check the small pond for gator visitors since the dogs swam at the pond daily and the kids played around the edge. On this evening, Smiley's flashlight beam revealed 2 glowing red eyes lurking near the willowy swampy end of the pond. Dang!

Smiley told Patience the news and said he would call the nuisance gator guys at the state. Turns out, gators too small to be a threat are low on their priority list for removal, especially in rural areas where gators actually belong. This little 4 1/2 footer wasn't going to eat anybody...this year, but they grow a foot a year for the first 6 years or so. Next year this guy might be dining on Lab...or worse.

So Smiley (whose name is NOT Patience for a reason) who has had some small amount of critter experience began his own gator relocation program. First Smiley studied his opponent's behavior. The gator was wary, but curious and would pop up when Smiley fed bread to the bluegills in the pond.

Smiley tried a stout fishing rod, strong line, and a large fishing lure. The gator grabbed the lure, rolled , the hook straightened, and the gator went back to the willows to pout. Score: Gator 1, Smiley 0.

Smiley tried tossing an old castnet over the gator as it sunned on the bank. Gators move really quickly. Score: Gator 2, Smiley 0.

Patience found Smiley's new found obsession amusing...Smiley did not.

As the pond continued to drop to historic muddy, knee deep water levels. Smiley knew his day had come. "Come Patience, we will seine the pond. Mr. gator will have no where to go with the water so low." Patience shook her head, muttered something like..."for better or worse" and agreed to help.

Smiley and Patience stretched the seine net across the pond and slowly walked it forward towards the opposite end. When the net reached the other end, it was full of fish and turtles, but no gator. He had slipped beneath the net and was floating a few feet behind them with a bemused expression. This happened over and over again.
Score: Gator 10, Smiley 0

Once Smiley and Patience almost had him, but did not have a great plan for grabbing him as he lept over the net between our two adventurers.
Score: Gator 11, Smiley 0

Finally, the gator got tired (the disadvantage of being an ectotherm), he had just had enough of this nonsense and made his first mistake...he left the water.

Up the bank and into a tangle of smilax vines went the gator. Up the bank and into the smilax vines went Smiley, yelling for Patience (who was not very by this time) to grab the old castnet.

Deep in the smilax Smiley was being cut to ribbons as he pursued his reptilian foe. Smiley finally came face to face with the gator, and made his did the gator! Snap!Lunge! Smiley parried and grabbed, but the gator dashed for the safety of the water.

At this point, Patience had retrieved the castnet and was standing between the gator and the pond. When the gator and Smiley burst from the smilax, she was the only thing between that gator and the sanctuary of the water.

He was running straight towards her. "Throw the net, throw the net!" yelled Smiley as he ran after the gator running towards Patience.

Patience had a momentary "deer in the headlights" expression as Smiley and the gator charged towards her, but she snapped out of it just in time to drop the net on the gator as it ran between her feet.

Smiley dove on the tangled gator, pinned the head, and it was all over except for the ducttaping.

A few minutes later a very tired gator was swimming in the Waccasassa River and the pond was safe for Labs and kids.

...Score: Tie Game.



Rick said...

Sounds like you have a shrimping partner for life.If she can handle a gator, shrimp will be a piece of cake.
Also on another note I got to experience hurricane Katrina.We tried to leave Miami about 500pm Thursday on a nothhbound train a tree blocked the tracks ahead so a engine pulled our train back to Hialeah.We noticed the rain and wind had stopped,we thought is was over.But then all #$@% broke loose.For about 90 minuted we were battered.In the bunkhouse with 5 other coworkers and no power we witnessed the backside of Katrina.Later we were told the calm before the storm was the eye passing over us.If that was only a cat 1 storm I sure dont want to stay home for a cat 2 or better.The power of the storm was awsome,it blew 3 rain cars over on their sides.And it moved 25 rail cars in a track 350 feet.I have to admit though I am facinated with bad weather so I enjoyed every minute of it.

roger said...

gator rassling sounds like good training for politics.

Rexroth's Daughter said...

Patience is all that and more! Wow, she's smart and tough (my favorite combination). That's quite an adventure for the two of you (whoops, there I am guessing that you are Smiley!).
I think of myself as pretty tough, but I must admit I'd never get between a gator and its pond. Great story.

Floridacracker said...

Oh yeah, she's a trooper.

That may be why southern politicians are so...colorful. As for me, you may notice I never touch politics on this site. Like Smiley, I'd rather rassle gators and snakes.

Sometimes life puts you between the gator and the pond. It's how you deal with that situation that counts. I don't think Patience woke up that day expecting to face down a gator, but she did OK.
Poor thing never knows what Smiley is going to get her into...

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
BULLSEYE said...

If there's one thing I can't stand it's SPAMMERS and by the looks of your comments I can see your getting your fair share of it! Copy and paste the link below and it will take you to your Blogger help page. From there it will show you how to prevent SPAMMERS. Just trying to help out.

Floridacracker said...

Thanks, I had put that off as long as I could, but I guess it's time to take the verification step. Thanks for stopping by.

swamp4me said...

Hehe...chasing a gator into catbriars -- I know that was fun!

Floridacracker said...

I don't know what was pointier, the gator's mouth or the briars. I mean, that's what Smiley said...

Weary Hag said...

Great (and clever) photo! During my employ at the aquarium, we had baby gators (shipped to us from Florida periodically) that we used for educational purposes. We dubbed them our "edugators." I was quite proud of myself when I learned how to handle these little snappy dudes. Even the 9-12 inch gators could be quite the handful and could produce a hefty and painful bite. Holding one of those babies, one can truly appreciate how amazingly strong those creatures are.
I can't imagine getting between a gator and his destination. Go Patience!!
Oh yes, and go "Smiley!"

Floridacracker said...

Thanks. I don't think Patience could have imagined getting between a gator and where it wants to go before this adventure.
How neat that you worked in an aquarium. As a kid I always wanted to work at Marineland of Florida, which at the time (pre-Seaworld) was the big aquarium to visit.

Rick said...

Since Bubba Stratton retired as the gator removal person in St Augustine maybe a part time job for you?

Floridacracker said...

Above this computer sits a preserved gator head that Mr. Stratton gave us when we visited him. He is the REAL thing, I could sit and listen to his gator catching tales all day.

G N Bassett said...

I love your stories. How com I'm thinking this is auto-biographical?

Hey, I started a "North Florida" group on Flickr, I don't know if you ever post there, but it would be great to have some of your shots.


Floridacracker said...

I will show my ignorance and ask, "What is flickr?"
Autobiographical? nahhhhhhh...