Finally, after twenty years of glancing warily at Cypress-Creek, I saw one of the mythical alligators I’ve heard so much about. Twenty years ago, when the Kickerillo-Mischer Preserve was owned by Compaq, you could borrow a paddleboat and take it out onto the lake. You had to read a pamphlet about snakes and alligators and sign a paper saying that you’d been warned. I took my daughter out in a paddleboat, fibbing a bit about the pamphlet I hastily shoved into my pocket: “It’s just an educational thing about the wildlife in Texas!” We had a good time paddling around the lake on the water.
Of course, if you read my first post about the preserve, you saw the Gator Etiquette sign. Maybe you read my post about asking the park ranger if the gators were just a myth. He told me the best places to spot them and assured me they were real. He even showed me a picture of the 11-footer that likes to hang out near the old dock.
I still wasn’t convinced.
Imagine my excitement, this morning, when I spotted this big fellow:
I spent 20 minutes of my walk time chasing it around the dock, trying to get a better photo. When it headed toward the shore on the far side of the lake, facing a group of people enjoying their morning on a park bench, I ran around the dock, hoping to catch it with its mouth open. And to warn the people, of course.
They were so kind, they encouraged me to move in closer for a photo. Didn’t mind me getting in the way of their Skype call at all. Smiled sympathetically when I finally realized I’d been chasing a fungus covered bit of driftwood. They’d thought it was a gator, earlier, too, and had been watching it float lazy circles for the past hour.
So much for that. I now understand how folks who’ve photographed the Loch Ness Monster feel.
I did a little power-walking to catch up with my goal pace, and passed a gentleman who had been nearly as hopeful of a gator spotting as I was. I shook my head. “Not this time, but I’m told they’re in there.”
We watched about thirty kayakers paddling their brightly colored boats around the lake. I hope that if the day comes, when some idiot tips a canoe, and the gator’s hungry, they won’t close the park or punish the gators for being gators. Or driftwood covered in mushrooms, like eyes.
When I got to the bridge, I looked up and noticed people standing halfway across, pointing into the water just like the park ranger said they do when they think they’ve spotted an alligator. I tried not to get my hopes up; it was probably a bit of rubber tire or a log or just the rush of water pouring out of the storm drain, sparkling brightly in the sun.
Near the bridge, there’s a bright yellow rope swing. The park rangers have cut it, burned it, done everything but climb up the tree hanging out over the creek to remove it. Local teens keep putting it up. Whether it’s in the spirit of fun or daring their unsuspecting friends to take a ride and drop into the creek, who knows? But there, directly below the rope swing, looking up, in what I like to think of as “Hope Springs Eternal,” is a little gator – probably about four feet long:
Look hard; you’ll spot him. Just his little head is sticking up, patiently waiting to catch an unsuspecting kid on that bright yellow rope swing. Here’s a closer view:
I realize this is a common sight in Louisiana and other southern states. I used to enjoy – and be slightly alarmed by – the gators lined up along the highways in Florida, as if waiting for one of those shiny “cans full of people” to stop so they could pry it open with their teeth and claws for a tasty lunch. For the most part, gators avoid people unless people feed them. In that respect, they’re like bears – and feeding them is akin to passing a death sentence on these amazing creatures. I only hope that people respect that this is their home and don’t cause a tragic confrontation.