Floridians have gone ballistic over the fact that, in recent days, three of them have been eaten by alligators, and yesterday an alligator tried to make a meal of someone’s golden retriever. Thank God the woman had a shotgun close at hand!
My sincerest condolences go out to the loved ones of the consumed…but otherwise, cry me a river. Alligators wouldn’t be eating anyone if humans hadn’t swallowed up so much of the gators’ natural habitat that we’re now living closer together than we’re supposed to.
In the Washington Post, Louisianan Ken Ringle brings some sense to the subject.
You would think from the gator-mania on CNN and Fox this week that alligators are some sort of grotesque mutation of the natural world stalking urban man. The obvious truth is that alligators in Florida are just hungry and confused and doing what comes naturally.
(CNN, that once-credible cable news network…)
Of course, Ringle has some unusual experience with alligators. One of his grandfather’s cousins once wrote a treatise on them. How can you not love this quote?
As a boy, he writes in the book’s preface, he and his cousins used to swim in the bayou that surrounds Avery Island, and “always took great pleasure and not a little excitement in seeing how many gators we could call around us during our swim. We would attract them by imitating the barks and cries of dogs and by making loud popping noises with our lips. . . . We had no fear of them and would swim around the big fellows, dive under them and sometimes treat them with great disrespect. . . . Sometimes when the tide was low we would surround on three sides a big one that might be lying on a mud flat. . . . He would stand a certain amount of pelting with mud. . . . Then it was, ‘Boys, get out of his way, he’s going to the water.’ On one of these occasions, I was mired past my knees in the soft mud . . . and the old gator who was blinded with mud ran over me as I fell backward, and I still have the marks of his claws on my stomach where . . . he slid over my naked body.“
Ringle himself received an alligator as a pet when he was seven. Croxy was an ill-tempered little beast, and returned all my love with repeated attempts at digital amputation…
And Ringle reminds us of something that is true of every animal we fear: We humans kill countless more of them than they do of us.
A lovely piece of writing, whether or not you care about alligators….