Saturday, October 31, 2015

Allie the Alligator

Before relocating to South Florida in 1973, I assumed that wild-life other than assorted birds and earth worms lived in zoos just like in NYC. I never saw a live snake slithering anywhere I lived in New York with the exception of my childhood summers spent in the Catskill Mountains. It wasn’t until after we moved to West Broward in South Florida and I was greeted by a rat snake on my walkway that I realized my new home was, according to the map, in the Everglades. As far as the natives, meaning snakes, assorted lizards, humongous frogs, and the grandest Everglades’ beast of them all, the alligators, were concerned, I was poaching on their turf, and they weren’t relocating.
            Shortly after moving into our home, my then young sons came running into the house screaming, “There’s an alligator in the storm sewer.”                 
After visual confirmation of what I hoped was a prank, I called 911. I was told not to stress because the “gator” would find its way back through the drainage pipe into the lake opposite my home. Because this beautiful body of water was really part of the South Florida Water (Everglades?) system, it is home to beasts that liked humans for snacks. Experts assured me that the chance of Allie the Alligator leaving the lake and crossing my neighbor’s property and then the street to my front door was slim. However, my lush greenery was home to the other Everglades inhabitants like possums and snakes. During one hurricane, my husband and I sat safely in our living room and watched in horror as the wind blew snakes out of the Areca palms that lined our property.
It took about 10 years for me not to care if a lizard dashed in through an open door. They don’t bite and are more afraid of me than I them. Also, they usually die within a day. If a small frog invades, and I hope I don’t gross you, I put a plastic cup over it. The next day I use corn prongs to remove the almost lifeless creature and toss it onto the grass.
            Whenever I see a snake near my house, I head to the supermarket and buy boxes of good old moth balls. Google says they are the same as snake repellant products and much cheaper. I sprinkle the balls around all my entrances and throughout the garage. Friends know that if they approach my home and smell the camphor, I spotted a snake on my property.
The active-senior community where I now live, about 40 miles north of our first Florida home, is near two nature preserves. Many of the retirees who are from northern cities incorrectly believe all the alligators in this area of Palm Beach reside in those two locations. Neighbors who fish in our man-made lakes claim they have seen small gators. As of yet, I haven’t spotted one, but you’ll never catch me walking near the water.
Unlike my previous home, my present home is on a lake (that is also part of the same system linked to the “real” Everglades). The first time my Atlanta family came to visit, my grandson tied his dog to the palm tree near the lake so it would not wander.  His father, who was sitting on the patio, sang, “alligator bait” repeatedly. My grandson has two parents raised in South Florida. He needed no explanation of his father’s song. The pet was quickly brought into the screened area.
            Recently my granddaughter visited me during her spring break from college.  She likes to jog at night.  We have guard gates, and supposedly it is safe for young girls to jog alone in our community, but I always worry about potential danger. My heart rate soared until she returned and immediately informed me the jogging path was filled with walkers and joggers. She knows of my propensity for worrying for what is supposedly “nothing.”
            The next morning an email came from our property manager with a picture taken around sunrise that day of a 6- 8 foot alligator. It was in the middle of the main road that borders our jogging trail—the very trail that my granddaughter was on just a few hours before.  As of yet, Allie the Alligator hasn’t eaten the bait in the trap that has been set. However, my granddaughter did her evening workouts in the gym for the rest of her stay. Who would have thought an alligator would reduce my stress!  

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