Having lived in Florida for two decades, I saw surprisingly few alligators on a regular basis. It wasn’t until the last half decade that the numbers finally ticked upward, but even then, they were few and far between. I remember when I first entered the town of Celebration to visit my new office building and the local sheriff’s deputies were using their squad car to coerce a large gator into a nearby retaining pond. I never so him (or her) again, so I presume the giant lizard was relocated somewhere less intrusive. I often saw smaller ones from time to time on the golf course, but they are just another course hazard and mostly left alone, but I gave up walking at night when I realized they could be hovering in that bush right next to the sidewalk.
I once saw a stealthy fellow sneaking up on a heron, but I was overhead on the Disney monorail in a holding pattern over a small body of water with no ability to warn the feathered prey, so I hope he noticed the approaching log in the water for what it really was. Most views of gators in Florida were in retaining ponds, often along the freeway system, rarely in the road, and keeping to themselves, yet when the entire state is a swamp, it’s not unlikely that they might show up in a swimming pool, strolling down a neighborhood street, or chomping down on a pet that happened to get too close to the native beasts. Again, life in a swamp.
Wading Through The River Of Grass
If you really want to see alligators, though, visit Everglades National Park. From babies less than a foot long, to the fully grown seniors that are more than fifteen feet long (although they say they are not as big in the Everglades due to the smaller size of their diet, but I do not see evidence of this fact). I’ve been here twice, once in the summer, when they avoid the heat, and now during the holidays when they are waiting for Santa to bring them a few tasty morsels of anything edible, including smaller gators. I see moronic tourists squatting near them for photo ops, or as the gators refer to it, free snacks, and marvel that people do not respect the power of a strong jaw.
As we tour the swamps, the ranger invites anyone who is interested to join her wading through the grasses into the marsh. I decline, but Son Number One is the first volunteer to roll up his pant legs and follow her into the gator-filled river of grass. Wading through the swamps of the Everglades sounds like an open invitation to be snatched from below and savored as a reptilian delight, yet learning early on to be bold, be adventurous, and experience life to the fullest (no idea from what tree that apple fell), he’s making the most of experience, and without any greater concern than how he will dry off before putting his shoes back on his feet. I know the gators are out there, they just didn’t get to have lunch with my son today.