What happens in Florida stays in Florida…Until Now!

Last week, a friend of mine walked outside and found an alligator in his pool.  (No, not the one in the photo.  His was much smaller – only about three and a half feet long.)  Until a couple of days ago, we haven’t had much rain here, and it’s been over 95°F every day (with the humidity making it feel more like 105°-110°), so the ponds and lakes were low at the time, too.

A lot of people from other parts of the country think when they hear about this, it’s a freaky occurrence, but it’s actually a lot more common than you think.  Believe it or not, alligators are actually pretty delicate creatures in that they have to take an active role in self-regulating their body temperature to stay between 82° and 92° F, or they may perish.  Because it gets so hot here, that’s the reason many alligators are nocturnal during the summer months.  When the lakes and ponds start to dry up, they need water to cool off, and they head for pools.

For today’s Throwback Thursday, I bet you already guessed that my story involves an alligator.  When I was a kid, my Uncle David would sometimes drive down with his wife and kids then pick up my Grandma and me to go spend a few days at his house in Northern Florida.  It was always such fun when this happened because I got to play with my cousins who were like siblings to me, and we’d get to ride in the back of the truck with the camper top and wave to the people behind us. Plus, it was private back there away from the grownups who seemed to always want to tell us to be quiet.

Every time we made that three and a half hour drive, we’d make exactly one pit stop at the Florida souvenir shop along the way.  This was always the most fun, not only because we got to get out of the extremely hot back of the truck, but because Uncle David would spend a whopping 99¢ on each of us when we went inside.  While the souvenir shop had tons of junk we all wanted, he stood firm and always bought us the same thing every single time:  David Jr. got a rubber alligator, and Kathy, Jennifer, and I all got orange blossom perfume that came in a glass orange.  And while I did (and still do) love the smell of orange blossom perfume, I always coveted Junior’s alligator.

But, back then, there was a distinct line between what toys were and weren’t acceptable for boys versus girls, and my grandma was especially not one to allow me to cross that line.  (I was ten years old before more than ten percent of my wardrobe was anything but dresses!)  I actually think every kid in Florida, at one time or another, has owned a little rubber alligator.  (Everyone but me, that is.)

Fast forward a few years decades.  My sister Michelle and I had recently moved into a house with a pool.  This was not my first time having a pool, but it was Michelle’s.  She had actually only lived in Florida for about five years and had only recently seen her first alligator crossing I-4!  (Actually, I’d shown her dozens of alligators, but she never knew what she was looking at if their entire body wasn’t exposed…  Nowadays, she can spot them before I do, such as the one we recently saw in our local Sam’s Club parking lot, but that’s a story for another day.)

Anyway, on this particular day, I was inside, and Michelle was mowing the yard.  I didn’t think much of anything when I heard the lawnmower stop until moments later when she ran inside flailing her arms and screaming, “Help!  There’s an alligator in the pool!”

Well, needless to say, between the two of us, if there’s anything reptilian in the house or yard, I’m usually the one to get the closest to it.  (*Right, Michelle?)  So, while she continued screaming, I was eager to go see how big it was.  She swore it was as long as her arm, so I’ll admit, I did proceed with caution.  (Adult gators are usually between 8 and 12 feet long.)  But as I approached the pool, I didn’t see it.  “It’s at the bottom,” she yelled from the cracked door.  So, you can imagine how foolish she felt when I got the skimmer and pulled up a little rubber alligator that some kid must have thrown over our fence!

(*Don’t worry.  I’m not picking on my sister.  She’s actually the one that suggested I write about this because she thinks it’s hilarious now.)

Time to talk:  Have you ever seen an alligator or crocodile in the wild?  What’s the biggest, scariest animal you’ve ever encountered?

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38 thoughts on “What happens in Florida stays in Florida…Until Now!

  1. A Polar bear, he wasn’t close, a few hundreds meters, but close enough…he was spotted many times roaming around the weather station…after a few tries taking him away, he always came back, they had to hire an inuit hunter to shoot him, on only them have to right to hunt bears. One time he mauled one of the station’s dog, not fatally, I wasn’t there anymore when it happen but stuff like that is sad, everybody wished it would have end the bear leaving the place..the food at the dump was to good…they are beautiful animals, when you can look at them from a safe place..

  2. I try very hard to not encounter wild animals, but I live in the Ocala National Forest by a canal you know wild animals are kind of part of the deal when you live here. In our yard I’ve watched a turtle laying her eggs and later saw the little ones boogying for the canal. I saw a young alligator chillin’ in our front yard. Various snakes visit us occasionally. A month ago on a Sunday evening we watched a mama bear and her half-grown cub meandering along the perimeter of our back yard. I think they were headed for a drink in the canal. We have sand hill cranes that freaked me out the first time I heard them there call was so strange to my ears. And with all of these potentially dangerous creators, none of them are as dangerous as the crack-heads.

  3. Wait a minute… I have to pick myself up from the floor from laughing hysterically. Oh that is rich my friend – a toy alligator in the bottom of the pool! So funny!! XOXO – Bacon
    P.S. Of course if I saw a toy alligator in my bathtub, this little piggy would squeal to the high heavens!

  4. I’ve seen alligators the one time I attended a conference in Florida. I’ve been around plenty of bears including the grizzly variety. Then we have rattlesnakes out west too.

  5. Wow, that’s quite a funny story! I’ve never seen an alligator and thank goodness because I’d be terrified. I have encountered snakes (not rattlers, thank goodness) and am actually terrified of the raccoons that lurk in our backyard. Also bats…yep, I’m a softie!

  6. I didn’t see the alligators, but I heard them bellowing all night long, when I was six years old and on a visit to retired relatives in Florida. Biggest? The bear that stole our bag of bread from the picnic table, when I was sitting beside the fire pit during a family camping trip in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Scariest? The foot-long, inch-wide centipede I killed in our house in Hawaii.

  7. The last time we were in Florida, we stayed at this motel on the lakes in Kissimmee and like that we always got this fabulous stretch of boardwalk, right over this small lake to ourselves with our drinks at nights when the rest of the seats were all taken round the pools etc. I am sure you will guess why. Either we looked like real tough cookies or stupid tourists.

  8. hilarious, rachel and so well-written! i do, actually have and alligator story of my own, you’ve triggered the memory and now i’ll have to write it up in a post )

  9. Oh my! Great story. So funny, Rachel!
    My husband’s aunt and uncle often see alligators. They live by the water in a town near Houston, TX.
    No alligators here. We’ve had snakes in our yard, and deer, raccoons (one momma and her babies living in the eaves of our house till we had someone remove them), and possums. I’ve seen foxes by the river.

  10. I had a bull moose walk into camp. It got so close to me that I could have touched it. The scariest was when a sow grizzly with two cubs crossed the creek right behind me and I didn’t see them. A guy coming up the trail told me about it, and when I went back to check I seen their tracks. I had 8 dead fish on me and I decided to get the hell out of there.

  11. Pingback: The Gator at Sam’s Club | Rachel Carrera, Novelist

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