The Captain cuts the engine as he steers us through the dense, marshy vegetation.
We coast silently, waiting in anticipation for what may lie ahead . Suddenly I realize there is less than thirty centimeters between what may lie beneath the sludgy water…
“There she is. To the right of the boat,” the Captain hushes. I happen to be sitting on the right of the boat.
My eyes frantically search the water but I can’t see anything but logs and lily pads. Where is she? Why can’t I see her? Then I realize my eyes are looking too far from the edge of the boat. The “log” in front of me is not just a log,
inside, nestled comfortably, is a nine foot alligator, derisively grinning.
“She has a nest of eggs just a few feet to our right.” Mentions the Captain.
Nice. I’m two feet away from a momma alligator. And it’s then that I wonder if alligators are capable of propelling themselves through the water fast enough to project themselves into shallow tin boats.
“Let’s see if I can get her to come out some.”
No, I think to myself, let’s just let her be.
The Captain takes a long steering stick and stirs the water beside her. In response, she inches out and hisses at us.
She is frightening, but beautiful, seeming to possess a wisdom passed down from a Cambrian age.
And we watch her for a few moments more and then slowly coast away.
We see three more alligators this afternoon. Some lazily floating in the water with only their nostrils and eyes above the surface. Others, hiding among the lily pads and reeds protecting covered clutches of eggs.
It is a beautiful afternoon. And afternoon filled with trees draped in Spanish moss,
white tail deer,
yellow blossoming lily pads,
and snails the size of baseballs.
But it is my encounter with the alligator that will make this adventure most memorable.