Monday, April 18, 2011

Close Encounters of the Reptilian Kind

posted by Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy

Trish's book launch and the talk about National parks reminded me of my first trip to the Everglades, and the first time I ever saw an alligator "in the wild" -- as in not inside a zoo or other compound.

This did not happen on our first trip to Florida. We'd already been there several times. First we did the Disney World/Epcot experience, then we did Speed Week. Heck, we'd even ventured down to the Keys a few weeks after a hurricane devastated the surrounding area. But this was the first time we ever ventured into the Everglades.

It was a wild and blustery winter day in south Florida (but still a LOT warmer than here in NorCal!) when we pulled into the ranger's station intent on taking one of those swamp buggy tours into the Everglades. Unfortunately, the weather made it unsafe for swamp buggies or anything else out in the 'Glades, the ranger politely explained. Road closed. End of line. But seeing how crest-fallen we were, she directed us to a nearby spot where we would probably see some alligators.

We followed her directions and within minutes found ourselves driving slowly along an elevated gravel road with water on both sides. The vegetation was lush and there were birds galore. Suddenly, DH threw the car into reverse and backed up about 100 yards, then inched forward a bit, saying, "I think I see a gator!"

He rolled down the window and pointed. I couldn't see anything, so he shut off the car and we both got out and walked to the back bumper. What is it about reptiles, especially large reptiles, that brings out the stupid in mammal brains? The DH pointed again and I squinted a little more, until I noticed the partially submerged black log he indicated actually had AN EYEBALL!

Oh WOW! An honest to goodness gator! This was exciting.

We stood for several minutes just looking, and the gator just stayed there too, never moving. Then DH got the bright idea to "feed" it to see if it would move. He opened the trunk and pulled out a fat-free muffin left over from breakfast (they hadn't been very tasty, but we didn't throw them out in case we were desperate for a snack), and lobbed it in the gator's direction.

ACK!!!
In about one-tenth of a nanosecond, the thing whipped around and these massive jaws went SNAP!

As my eyes bugged out and my throat made this funny little EEP sound, my brain shouted, "That thing is FAST! And it's A LOT BIGGER than it first looked!" Well over six feet!

But mostly I'm thinking, "RUN YOU IDIOT! DON'T JUST STAND HERE!"

Apparently DH read my thoughts, or he was thinking the same thing. But he managed to tell me, "Do not run! Slowly get in the car." Yeah, right! We both shuffled carefully and quietly around and got into the car. Gravel flew as we high-tailed it outta there!

We've been back to Florida many times, and have been into the Everglades more than once. AWESOME PLACE! We've even been on a couple of swamp buggy tours. But we have NEVER again been stupid enough to try and feed the gators!

Are you like Aunty and Indiana Jones, do reptiles make you break into a cold sweat? Or do you like our reptilian inhabitants? Do you have any encounters with reptiles you can share with us?

60 comments:

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

I'm not a snake person in the least (shudder), but I don't mind alligators. But I'm not getting out of a car to look at one or feed it! Ack! I'm glad you two didn't end up being that gator's lunch.

Gannon Carr said...

Is he mine?

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Wow, I've been getting the rooster lately. I think that means I'm not going to bed early enough.

So...off to bed to read some more of Cassandra Clare's "Clockwork Angel" before catching some Zzzzs.

Gannon Carr said...

Oh, Trish, you beat me by a minute!

I grew up in Florida, so seeing gators was fairly common. But I don't like to get up close and personal with them.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Ooops, sorry Gannon. And you're up even later than me!

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Hey, maybe I'll make the rooster do some gator wrestling today. Mwahahahaha!

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

WOW! It was a neck & neck race there, but the chook goes with Trish! Is that the second or third time?

And Gannon, you were only a minute behind! That wily bird!

AC

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Gannon,
As a Florida native, I'm sure you were never as DUMB as the DH and I and probably lots of other tourists. :-P I still can't believe we did that!

AC

Gannon Carr said...

Trish, normally I'm fast asleep by now, but for some reason I'm wide awake. Grrr. I'll pay the price in the morning.

Sheree said...

Congrats on getting the rooster, Trish!

When I was young, my parents (mostly my mother) refused to let me have a snake. My sister and I managed to smuggle a lizard into our bedroom though.

I do draw the line at reptiles that can eat me.

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

LOL Sheree!
I also draw the line at human consuming reptiles. Or even reptiles that can make you very ill and/or kill you.

There were rattlesnakes in the area where I grew up. Come to think of it, there are rattlesnakes here in NorCal too, just not in the city. (Aunty wipes sweat from her brow) I really am deathly afraid of snakes!

AC

Kim in Hawaii said...

As a Florida native, I find reptiles (gators, snakes, et al) creepy. We won't discuss how the "gator" attractions feed the reptiles to perform on demand (GR would get upset).

But I will share a funny story about gators. Several years ago hubby and I toured Scotland. We stopped at the Alloa Tower near Stirling. We bought a few trinkets in the National Trust for Scotland (NTS) gift shop ... including two "gator" pins. I asked the cashier why the NTS would offer gator pins. She replied that the supervisor thought they were dragons in the catalogue (I can live with dragons, not gators). I have since given the pins to authors who are Gator (UF) alumns.

Helen said...

A close call today but Trish wins and yes make him work Trish LOL

Aunty Cindy

What ever posessed you both LOL I would have stayed in the car and looked.

I have never come that close to a crocodile other than in a zoo here in Oz but we do have a lot of snakes and I really don't like them much at all. My grandparents had a little hobby farm when we were growing up on The Central Coast of NSW and that is where we would spend a lot of our holidays I remember when I was up there once with one of my sisters and a cousin named Jeff the 3 of us went for a walk and our grandfather warned us not to go near any sheets of tin because is was baby snake season needless to say cousin Jeff grabbed a little tomahawk and we went for our walk and yes the first sheet of tin he found he flipped it over and there were 7 baby red bellied black snakes under it thankfuly no mother my sister and I took of at a run and Jeff stood watching them for awhile before he too took off never again and we never told our grandfather LOL.
And when I had only 2 kids very young I was walking to a friends place around the corner (there was lots of building going on at that stage new houses in what was a lot of bush area) and a brown snake was on the footpath in front of me lucky for me there were a couple of council workers near by and they killed it with their shovel they really are nasty Brown snakes and deadly if it had bitten either Bec or Joel being so young I hate to think.

My encounters with reptiles both were frightening and I stay clear of them if I can LOL

Have Fun
Helen

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

EWW! Kim, we definitely do NOT wanna tell about feeding gators within earshot of the GR. :-P

And LOL on mistaking a gator for a dragon... Hmmm, is that rumblings coming from Ermingard's weir? I'm afraid we may have hurt her feelings. And of course, we would NEVER consider her to be a (whispers) reptile.

AC

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

OMGosh, Helen!
Those are 2 scary encounters you had! Are red bellied black snakes poisonous? They actually sound kinda pretty... for a SNAKE, I mean.

I must say that you have QUITE a variety of snakes and such there in Oz, and some of the most HIDEOUS BUGS I have ever seen! Florida too!

AC
who hates big ugly bugs almost as much as snakes

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

All right, I'm off for bed and will catch up with all of you in the morning. Here's hoping I don't dream about REPTILES!

AC

Helen said...

To answer your question yes red bellied black snakes are poisonous but they are more scared of us than we are of them and they will take off unless threatened where a brown snake will attack

Have Fun
Helen

Jane said...

Hello Aunty Cindy,
I've never been up close and personal with reptiles except at a zoo or a safe distance. We don't see many snakes here in the city, except the one that escaped from the Bronx Zoo.

Donna MacMeans said...

Congrats on the rooster Trish though I suspect he'll be hiding under the bed at the mention of alligators.

I've saw a few on Kiawah Island in South Carolina. We even saw a spot with a bunch of very cute newly hatched alligators. They were about six inches long, squiming in the water. It didn't appear there were parents nearby, but we kept our distance just in case.

My husband went golfing in Mrytle Beach last month and sent me a photo of an alligator on the course. He was on land, but heading for the water. That's what I call a water hazard!

Beth Andrews said...

I'd rather come across a snake than a rodent (of any kind) but I'm not crazy about either one. We once had a snake in the basement. Not sure how he got in the house but I was 'lucky' enough to find him under the dirty clothes as I was doing laundry.

My son had a sleepover in the back yard when he was about 12 or so. He and his friends spent the night outside and in the morning, my husband cooked them breakfast over a campfire. As the food was being cooked, the boys found a bunch of baby snakes under a rock. We have pictures of them all holding toast in one hand, a baby snake in the other *g*

I stayed inside :-)

Caren Crane said...

Trish, you nabbed the chook AGAIN? People are going to talk about the two of you. I heard Gannon was starting a rumor! ;)

AC, I have always had lots of respect, dread and fear for reptiles. To me, there is nothing cute, cuddly or alluring about them. Having dissected many animals in high school biology (our teacher was all about dissection for some reason), I knew they had very little in the way of brains. I figured if they don't have much brain, they can't have much emotion and, thus, no pity nor remorse.

Recently, one of my GS co-leaders told us she had a friend on Long Island who had an anaconda (or some other ginornous snake that sometimes eats people) that was about 6 feet long. The snake stopped eating and wasn't acting normal. The guy typically let it roam his house at night and left the cage open. One night he woke up and the snake was in bed next to him, stretched out perfectly straight - very abnormal behavior.

He took the snake to the vet who told him the snake was "sizing him up". They stop eating when they have a large meal planned and the "sizing up" was the snake making sure he could handle the meal. He strongly encouraged the guy to get rid of the snake. HE DIDN'T!!!

Really? To me, that is just asking for it. I will never have a reptile as a pet!

Gillian Layne said...

Any reptile encounters usually involve me running to get the hoe....:)

Susan Sey said...

Oooh. Cold sweat. Definitely. If my husband had FED an alligator I would have been running so fast & so far he would never have seen me again. I would have simply assumed the alligator ate him next, mourned & moved on. :-)

Christie Kelley said...

AC, I've seen some gators in South Carolina and Florida but never got too close to them.

On Saturday, I took my son with me to PetSmart. He was checking out the small reptiles and went around to the side of the display. Just as he gets there a small python strikes out and hits the glass on its enclosure. My almost 14 yr old boy jumped back like the snake was loose. I laughed so hard (and so did he). The python obviously didn't like my son because it did the same thing 3 other times while he watched it.

EilisFlynn said...

Next time, try Gator World, outside of Orlando. Enjoyed it thoroughly, and kept a good distance from the subjects! (But it IS amazing how fast they'll move for food -- they JUMPED for their snack of a chicken!)

Kathleen Eagle said...

We took the Everglades tour years ago, and I was surprised by how close you could get to the 'gators and not get eaten. I even got to hold a baby 'gator.

Here's a secret about my tough cowboy. He's afraid of snakes, and I'm not. Nah nah na nah na. We go to Reptile Garden in SD, and I get in line to hold a snake, while Clyde stands back and turns int a paleface. When we lived out in the country, I had a huge garden, came eyeball to eyeball with a rattler over a row of beans once. I backed away slowly and quietly. He took off in the other direction, too. Neither one of us wanted to die that day.

Jolene Kendry said...

I love reptiles! I love the way a snake's skin feels, and I love the ancient look of a crocodile, like something that crawled out of a pharoah's tomb. I don't have the stomach to keep lizards as pets but I love spending time with those my friends keep.

Trish Milburn (Tricia Mills) said...

Gannon starting a rumor about me? Well! :)

Kathleen, I'm laughing at that story about Clyde, but I'm just like him. My parents would kill snakes with a garden hoe. Me, I'm not getting that close. Give me a shotgun and a good bit of distance, please. Thankfully, I haven't seen a snake on our property since we moved here. Of course, now that I say that when I go out to mow in a few minutes I'll encounter one. Eek.

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Morning all!

Yes, it is still morning her on the Left Coast -- a bit overcast and muggy with nary a reptile in sight! HOORAY! (OOPS, sorry Ermingarde!)

Helen, thanx for the warning about red bellied black snakes and brown snakes. Next time I am in Oz I will stay FAAAAR away! Heck, I stay FAAAAR away from snakes no matter WHERE I am!

AC

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

LOL Jane!
David Letterman got a lot of mileage out of that missing cobra from the Bronx Zoo. I actually felt kinda sorry for that snake with all those people after it. I heard on the news that they found it and christened it Mia (for Missing In Action).

AC

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Donna,
YIKES on the gator on the golf course! I'd be pointing that golf course in the direction of the club house so fast it would break some kind of record!

And I don't think gators do much in the way of parenting. I was under the impression they just lay the eggs and go. Maybe I'm wrong... Anybody know?

AC

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

ACK!!!
Beth, I'd have screamed like an angry banshee if I found a snake in my laundry! I hope you called in reinforcements (your son and DH) to remove the critter.

AC

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

EEEEEWWWWW!!!!
Posh, that guy with the anaconda DESERVES whatever he gets from that critter. WHAT A MORON! If I thought ANY creature was "sizing me up" for a meal, I'd be outta there so fast.

Thank goodness we have no worries here in the Lair. Ermingarde has roughly the same taste and disposition as a St. Bernard. Of course, a few of the cabana boys (KOFF *Paolo* KOFF) will claim differently. But E. has a definite preference for sweets over meat. ;-)

AC

jo robertson said...

Hilarious post, AC! As the mother of seven kids, I definitely have some repilian stories.

The funniest one is Tyler's blue ribbon snake. He loved that thing, but it was forever getting out of its terrarium. Snakes apparently love to curl up to warmth, so Ty would put a lamp on the floor to attract it. Well, the snake is also drawn to warm bodies, so my daughters freaked out whenever it escaped.

Once Tyler took it to show and tell at school, and again, the snake escaped. Good times with that guy!

Dtchycat said...

I actually like reptiles. When me and my husband were first dating, we took a trip to Las Vegas to go 'snake hunting' in the desert. And we've been to Florida to see the gators - I find them so fascinating that they have virtually remained unchanged (except for size) since the days of the dinosaurs, they are ancient! We used to have a snake, but my cats were terrified so our friend took the snake (yep, as much as I like reptiles, the cat won) I'd much rather wake up with a snake in my house than a spider...

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Gillian,
You are a brave woman!

I saw my Gramma kill a rattler with a hoe once. She just casually walked over and *WHACK* chopped its head off! I was about 8 or 9 and I think I burst into tears immediately. My grandfather went back later and cut the rattles off the tail as a trophy. She wouldn't touch them!

AC

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

LOL Susan!
I definitely agree about NOT waiting around to see what the gator eats next!

They eat just about everything, btw. On one of our trips to the Glades, we noticed a ring of gators just hanging out at the base of this very large tree. When we asked the ranger, he pointed out several bird nests. He said the gators know when the young birds are learning to fly. Failure to take off on the first try was a FATAL option for those birds!

AC

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

OMGosh, Christie!
That was one nasty tempered python! Glass or no glass, I'd have jumped too. And what is it with boys and reptiles? My niece just bought her twins these big, ugly lizards... UGH!

AC

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Eilis,
SHHHH! Don't let the GR hear ya. We may NEVER get him out of Trish's pantry. ;-)

I have heard that gators can jump up and catch birds. YIKES!!!

AC

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Kathleen,
Thanks for dropping by today. I MUST agree with your DH, I do NOT wanna hold a snake! Nor a baby gator either. No thank you! Nuh-uh! Pass on that one!

As for the rattler in the garden... EEEEKKK!!!

AC

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Hi Jolene,
At LAST we find a reptile lover! You're right about the ancient look of crocs and gators. A lot of the big lizards too, like iguanas. Their skin is really interesting, but those tongues darting out give me the creeps!

Glad our scaly friends have found a friend in you.

AC

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Good luck with your mowing, Trish!

Maybe you can get the GR to help you. He can stand guard with the hoe. ;-) I'm sure he could be bought with some chocolate.

AC

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

LOL Jo,
See what I mean about boys and reptiles? I'd have been freaking out right along with your daughters if I thought a snake was loose inside the house! What a nice mom you were to let Tyler have a snake. I kept the pets down to dogs, cats, and fish, NO EXCEPTIONS!

AC

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Dtchycat,
Score TWO reptile supporters in the Lair today. Ermingarde will be your buddy forever. ;-)

But I'm glad your cat won out and made you get rid of the snake. (Aunty shudders at the thought of a snake in the house.) Cats are soft and purry and so much more fun than a snake... just sayin!

As for spiders, as long as they are smaller than a quarter, they can stay. They catch nasty bugs like flies and mosquitos. But if the spider gets too large, OUT IT GOES! Like I said before, I am NOT fond of BIG UGLY bugs (arachnids included)!

AC

catslady said...

Mostly the only thing I can't stand are spiders - any size lol. Of course I hope not to be too close to anything lethal lol. A funny story - we were in an animal park in Florida in a Volkswagon Beetle with a sun roof which we left open - a giraffe came next to us which I thought was wonderful until it stuck this humongous purple tongue through the sunroof. It had to be wound closed by hand and it mananged to get the top of my head roflmao - yuk!

Christie Kelley said...

AC, my boys were warned from the time they were young...no repiles! He wanted to show me the birds. He's convinced I need a bird (I really don't).

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

ROFL, Catslady!

Giraffe's do have the longest tongues, don't they? And I'll bet they are slimey too. ICK!

I love those drive thru wildlife parks, but I'll remember NOT to take a car with an open sunroof!

AC

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Trust me Christie,
You don't need a bird. They are notoriously messy and lots of them are LOUD! (AC ducks the slings and arrows of the bird lovers) I know this because my sister has had various birds (all given to her by owners who were tired of them) including an African grey and a couple of peach-faced love birds.

My son always wanted a hamster or guinea pig, but I steadfastly refused since I knew *I* would be the one left caring for them.

Mean Mom,
AC

Enid Wilson said...

Some reptiles are ok. But crocodile is frightening.

My Darcy Mutates

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Thanks for dropping by, Enid.

I guess very small lizards (like geckos) are okay, and turtles... Turtles are reptiles, right?

Did you know there's a place in the Everglades where both crocs and gators live? I learned that on my last trip there.

AC

Louisa Cornell said...

My goodness, Trish! The topic scared him so badly he decided to stay at your place quaking in his feathers, no doubt!

Pipped at the post, Gannon! Next time!

A fat free muffin? No wonder he snapped at you! As they say, you don't have to outrun the alligator. You just have to outrun the person next to you! Glad you and hubby and enough sense to get back in the car.


You all know I have had many reptiles in my life. I've owned pythons, boa constrictors, monitor lizards (meat eaters) iguanas, monkey-tailed skinks, bearded dragons, several other lizards, a variety of tortoises, frogs, and even a few varieties of tarantula. The last one passed away a number of years ago of extreme old age and I never acquired any more. They are extremely high maintenance, especially the ones that eat mice, rats and rabbits.

My largest snake, Big Mama, was thirteen feet long and weighed over 100 pounds when she passed away. She had her own room at that point! A group of my students spent the night before an early departure on a trip to Mississippi. It was March and very cold. A couple of the guys slept in the guest room where there was a water bed with a nice heater. With all of the students going in and out of her room to see her, the door to Big Mama's room wasn't closed completely. Her heat lamps blew in the night. I awoke to hear someone calling my name @ 3 AM. I got up, followed the sound and arrived at the guest room. I opened the door and asked "What is it?" "Turn on the light." "Why?" "Just do it." I did. These guys were lying perfectly still, not even blinking. "What is it?" "Get. Her. Out of here!" "Her? Her who?" They pulled back the covers and there between them lay Big Mama! She'd crawled around to find the warmest room in the house and made herself at home! We still tease those guys about their menage a trois with the python!

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Hi Louisa!
I was waiting for you to weigh in as YES! I well remember you had many reptiles in your menagerie.

But O.M.GOSH! That story about Big Mama is too TOO funny! But only because I wasn't one of those unfortunate guests Big Mama decided to snuggle up with in the middle of the night. :-P

Ermingarde is very pleased to know that you've taken such good care of other reptiles in the past. She's probably up in her weir making you some of her special s'mores right now! ;-)

AC

Jen said...

Hola AC!

I'm not a fan of alligator, unless it's in handbag or wristwatch strap form. I would've screamed and jumped on top of the car. Louisa...snakes? I have an irrational fear of them. I wish I didn't. :)

Louisa Cornell said...

Oooh! Ermingarde is such a doll! And her s'mores are to die for! (No, not literally, Ermie! Put the nice cabana boy down.)

Needless to say, the two boys were NOT amused. We all laughed long and hard before we actually got to work hauling Big Mama back to her room.

I won't mention the poor girl who ran down my hallway screaming with her pants around her ankles because Sigmund, my six foot iguana, crawled out from behind the shower curtain and scared her half to death!

GladysMP said...

Reptiles are not my cup of tea. They aren't pretty, funny, or any such. I can't imagine having a snake for a pet. Creepy!

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

LOL Jen!
I'm surprised VA or Tawny haven't weighed in on alligator shoes. ;-) And I've seen cowboy boots that are supposed to be made of snakeskin... Um, think I'll take a pass on those!

AC

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

A six foot iguana in the bathroom, Louisa?!?!

I've run screaming from a 2 inch cockroach in the bathroom. Can't imagine what I'd do in the face of a six foot iguana! And I'm sorry but they are UGLY!!

AC

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

Thanx for dropping by, Gladys!

Nope, no pet snakes for ME either. ACK!

AC

Cassondra said...

Great post Aunty Cindy!

I have no issues with reptiles in general. I can hold a snake if Steve is with me to keep it from wrapping around my arms and take it back right quick like when I've had my fill of holding it.

I'm not afraid of normal size lizards. But the ginormous lizards of any kind--those you can keep WAAAAAAAAAY over there, thank you very much. I've never been up close with a gator, and don't plan to be any time soon. Gators and grizzlies--those are two four legged critters I respect and want nothing to do with. At. All.

Yes, I am a wuss about gators.

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

I can deal with snakes but if it has more than 4 legs I'm gone. Size doesn't matter either, ant to tarantula, Dianna is history.