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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Gators!

aligator hunting
Alligator in boat next to my car at Lochloosa Park.
“Gators” (pronounced “GAY-turs”, rhyming with “TAT-turs”).

That’s the one-word answer I got when I asked “Whatcha gonna use that rope for?” – a standard question “my” rope-buying West Marine customers.

Not the answer I expected!  

Never mind that a month earlier I missed out on a decent shot of the gator on the slip across from ours.  Never mind that we’re less than an hour’s drive from St. Augustine’s Alligator FarmNever mind that Florida is the second-most gator-populated state, with over a million alligators (Louisiana wins that dubious first prize honor), though based on the ubiquity logos there are surely more (University of Florida) Gator Fans here (grist for another gator post -- or two).  In any case, apparently there are enough of these aquatic reptilian behemoths,  state-approved management and control programs – aka – gator hunting in Florida (click here for program details) are allowed, despite federal protection for alligators.
aligator hunting
Gator hunting booklet from Florida Fish & Wildlife
(click here link to .pdf)

Meanwhile, the scintillating dialog continued with this tall, trim, laconic fellow….
Me:  “You hunt gators?”
Mr. Man-of-Many-Words:  “Yup.”
Me:  How long have you been doing it?
Mr. Man-of-Many-Words: “Four years.”
Me: “You catch any?”
Mr. Man-of-Many-Words: “Yup.”
Me: “I’d love to learn more about it!”
Mr. Man-of-Many-Words: [silence]

It occurs to me….  Does he suspect me of flirting?  I’m definitely not; near mono-syllabic guys a couple decades younger than me are just not on my radar.

Fast-forward to last weekend’s oh-dark-hundred drive, laterally bisecting the state.  Pulling into Lochloosa Park just off SE Hwy. 301 Hawthorne, Florida for a brief break, a pair of boaters is readying their trailered boat for their ride home.  It’s a busy spot, boats queueing in and out, launching and leaving.

“Wanna see what we caught?” offers the fellow closest to my car.  “Sure,” I reply, mostly happy to delay the drive a little longer, expecting maybe a stringer of reds and trout, or something along those lines. 

He reaches his hand into the inside of the boat and yanks up a big, fat alligator head.  Its mouth is bound with black tape.  Its many, pointy teeth, very visible. Its double chin, bulging.  There’s about a 2 ½” hole on the top of its head.

“He’s dead… now,” my parking lot neighbor assures me.  “We shot him in the head first, then stabbed him. He’s about 8 feet long,” he adds, when prompted.  I’m guessing his estimate is on the conservative side.  Not sure how much I was rattled or just too tired; I blow my photos of him mugging for the camera.

“I’m a doctor,” he informs me, for no particularly apparent reason.  “Gotta go; don’t want to be rude and hold up the other boaters,” he concludes, heading off into the sunrise.

florida gator logo
Ubiquitous Gator logo on lawn signs at Lowes.
Two days ago at West Marine, a soap-opera-cute, well-built, tanned, blue-eyed, blond in mint green hospital scrubs saunters up to the register, flashing his best pearly white smile.  “I need some really strong, thin rope.  Is that something you carry?”  Yes, I tell him, directing him to our expansive bulk rope wall.  He returns with two 40 foot bundles of high tensile, ¼ inch rope.  I ask him what it’s for.  “Gators,” he tells me, again smiling broadly, his chest puffed out a little.  This time I’m the one wondering if he’s flirting with me.  I do not pursue my end of the conversation past, “Have you caught any?” “Two, the limit for the season,” he replies.

They may be a lot less than perfect, but I got my gator pictures and decide to quit while I’m ahead.


Why is is doctors instead of dentists drawn to these toothy reptiles?