Monday, December 13, 2010

Gator Up

A full-grown American alligator raced across the road, right in front of a taxicab full of tourists. I was driving my husband to the Orlando International Airport at the time.

“Hey, wasn’t that an alligator running across the road?” I asked.


“Can you imagine being in a taxi on your first trip to Florida and seeing an alligator run across the road?”

Sherwood doesn’t let a whole bunch excite him.

Which is a good quality, because when our boys were young it was nothing for us to have to make strange alligator related rules, like:

“Aric, you are not allowed to ask Adam, your smaller and younger brother, to jump on the back of alligators that you catch on fishing poles.”


“Adam, you are never, ever to do anything that your brother tells you to do—EVER.”

Occasionally, before nodding off to sleep, I would ask my husband, “Do you think Aric is trying to kill Adam via an alligator related hunting accident?”

He would say, “Yep.”

Alligators are a real conservation success story. On the verge of disappearing into the endless kiosk of designer handbags and boots, they’ve come back to threaten the safety of every poodle in the state of Florida.

Or as we like to say, “You can hardly spit around here without an alligator crawling into the damp spot. They’re everywhere.”

In Florida if there’s water, eventually, an alligator is going to crawl into it or through it on its way to a better damp spot or date. We lived on a small lake which forced us to develop the Zern Family ‘Gator Capture and Relocation Program. The program worked liked this:

1) Adam would mimic the grunt of a baby alligator (no one can grunt like my Adam.) Adam’s ‘gator grunt attracted adult alligators the way farting the alphabet attracts Cub Scouts.

2) Alligators would glide in like heat seeking missiles.

3) Aric would then flip a bit of a chicken’s inside parts, on a hook, in front of the cruising reptile (no one can fish with chicken gizzards like my Aric.) Worked every time or just about.

4) And then Aric would yell. “Adam, jump on the alligator’s back.”

After that they’d tape the ‘gator’s mouth shut, heft it in their arms, and bring it into our bedroom to show Mom and Dad. We would be napping at the time.

Another Zern family rule stated, “Never, ever bring alligators in to wake up Mommy and Daddy from their nap, because Mommy hates to wet the bed. (It’s so important to explain rules to children, don’t you think?)

At this point Sherwood would roll out of bed, muttering things.

“It’s like living in an episode of . . . flipping . . . wild . . . flipping . . . kingdom.”

Making the boys toss the alligator in the back of our truck, he’d then help them take it down the road to release it in someone else’s pond.

I would remain at home stripping sheets off the bed.

Let me shatter some alligator myths for my friends around the global water cooler. Alligators are not ambitious. If you fall into their mouths, they might take advantage of the situation. But they don’t plot.

Alligators are not like us; they are cold-blooded and the reason that they’re hanging out in the parking lot of the Winn Dixie is to get warm, not stalk you or your groceries.

Alligators are not mean. I once saw a baby alligator riding through the swamp on the nose of a gigantic Mommy alligator. How heart warming is that?

Of course, when the Mommy alligator started swimming toward us the park ranger screamed, “Run!”

Alligators are not clever. Adam and Aric outwitted them on a regular basis with a fake ‘gator call and some chicken livers.

My husband flies to Detroit, Michigan for work and takes taxi cabs from the airport to his hotel.

I asked him, “What would run across the road in front of your taxicab in Detroit?”

He said, “An out-of-work auto worker.”


Linda (‘Gator Bait) Zern

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