If Forrest Gump Lived in Florida…

Does everyone remember when Forest Gump’s business partner and best good friend in the wide world, Benjamin Buford Blue a/k/a Bubba, named the different types of shrimp they could make in their shrimp business?

“Anyway, like I was sayin’, shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sauté it. Dey’s uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That- that’s about it.”

Well, if they’d have been in Florida instead of Alabama, they might have had something besides shrimp to catch and cook…

 

Let’s chat:  Have you ever eaten alligator?  Would you ever consider eating alligator or another reptile?  What is the most creepy unusual thing you’ve ever eaten?

The Gator at Sam’s Club

Can you believe how North Carolina had eight (severe) shark attacks in just three short weeks?  I’ve been going to the beach regularly my whole life, but this makes me seriously reconsider my pastime.

I think the thing that is really frightening is that all of these attacks were in shallow water.  I mean, who’d have ever thought that a shark large enough to sever a limb would – or even could – be swimming in three feet of water?

So, with all these shark attacks in the news, it got me thinking about other creatures with big, sharp teeth that lurk in water, and of course, my mind came to alligators.

Today’s Throwback Thursday tale won’t be from the Way-Back Vault, but rather, it’s something that happened not too long ago.  Remember last month when I told you about What Happens in Florida Stays in Florida, and in that post, I mentioned my recent sighting of the alligator at Sam’s Club?  I told you then that that was a story for another day… and today’s the day.

Now, in case you didn’t realize it, Florida is actually a giant swamp.  (Yes, really.)  A lot of the state used to be under water (even in my lifetime), until engineers devised a way to fill in the water holes and build on them.  Unfortunately, that’s one of the reasons we have so many sinkholes here.  So, per our state’s law, when someone builds a structure on what used to be swampland, they must provide a certain square footage of watershed on the property.  As such, we have watersheds in front of just about every commercial property I can think of.  (Some people might refer to a watershed as a retention pond.)

A couple of years ago, I dropped my sister off at Walmart then I drove around the parking lot until she was ready.  During the few minutes she was inside, I drove by a ditch (which was not their official watershed) that had filled with rainwater, and I noticed something moving.  Now, keep in mind that this ditch was three feet away from the parking lot!  Well, if you guessed the thing I saw was a gator, you’d be correct.  A small alligator, about five feet long, crawled out of the ditch and walked in front of my car!

(That’s where my friends up North usually gasp in horror, but it’s actually not that uncommon.)  I sped back to the front of the store to pick up my sister so she could see, but by the time we got back, we just saw his tail as he was going back into the water.  Unfortunately, it was nighttime, so the photo I took didn’t turn out.

Anyway, my point is that when I have friends visit from somewhere other than Florida, if they want to see an alligator, I generally point them to Walmart or Sam’s Club where I see them most often.  Which brings us to today’s story…

Sam’s Club & Watershed

A couple of months ago, Michelle and I were at Sam’s Club.  As we pulled in the parking lot and past the watershed, we spied a large alligator (about 13 feet long).  I thought it would be cool to blog about it if I could get a decent photo, so we parked and started walking to the watershed for a closer look.  (Don’t worry, it was fenced in.)  As we crossed the aisle in the parking lot, the gator was sunning himself on the far bank.  He was quite handsome and regal with the sun glinting off his fangs back.  I was so excited to be able to get a good photo of such a large reptile.

Can you see him in the water?So as we neared the fence, the sun was shining something fierce.  It just so happened that we both looked down for only a split second because it was so blindingly bright, and when we both looked back up, our gator was gone!  Not only had he run quite a distance to get back into the safety of his watery home, but there weren’t even any ripples in the water where he entered!

How about now?Seriously, it wasn’t more than two seconds that we each looked down, and he had to have traveled 30 feet to get to the water’s edge!  I was of course overcome with disappointment that I couldn’t get a good photo, but more than that, I was amazed at how quickly and stealthily he moved!  It sure made me appreciate that chain link fence between us that much more!

So to conclude, I apologize that I didn’t get any good photos of my friend, but so that I don’t leave you empty handed,  I’ll instead share a photo of a creature I took at Blue Springs a couple of years ago:

At Blue Springs

Let’s talk:  Would you be comfortable with only a fence between you and a 13 foot long reptile in the wild?  Do large creatures reside outside your Walmart?  Did you have a clue alligators could move so quickly?

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?

First week of spring, my butt!

I can’t believe it was only last Friday that spring arrived.  Here where I live, today it was 86°F at 5:00 PM!  Yesterday, at 5:45, it was 89°F!  Of course, with the humidity, it feels a good 10°F hotter than that.  I can only imagine how miserable it’s going to be once summer gets here.

Let’s talk:  How’s the weather in your neck of the woods?   Do you prefer extremely hot weather or extremely cold weather and why?  Is it humid where you are?