off topic; was RE: Embarrassing bulb moments

Jim McKenney
Mon, 18 Dec 2006 19:23:48 PST
Joe's story reminded me of one of my own. Joe mentioned that most of us have
probably done silly things now and then. Some of us, as you'll soon read, do
stupid things, too. 

Let's say I was on the lookout for wild Hymenocallis. Actually, this one has
nothing to do with bulbs, so it's definitely off topic. However, anyone who
has spent time in the field collecting can relate to it easily. And it's
worth reading if only to give you a break from all the worry about getting
what you want for the holidays. Or, for those of you dealing with frigid
winds and snow drifts, to have reason to be glad that you're not in the hot
place I was. 

About fifteen years ago I was visiting friends in Savannah, Georgia. They
were a bit perplexed when, in response to my query about sightseeing, they
started to tell me about the people stuff and I interrupted them and told
them no, I wanted a swamp. 

Well, I got my swamp. My companion Wayne and I drove over to the Okefenokee
Swamp, found a boat rental place on the Suwannee River, and unencumbered by
maps or compasses placed our trust in the little marks blazed on stumps
protruding from the water every hundred yards or so. We kept going, deeper
and deeper into the swamp. It was a glorious March day, too early for
mosquitoes, but warm enough for the alligators to be out: big, fat

Since you're reading this story from me, you already know that I got out
alive. I can't take any credit for that. I also got out without getting
lost, although I've never figured that one out, either. As several people
have pointed out to me over the course of my life, my guardian angel is easy
to spot: he's the prematurely very gray one. 

An hour or two into the swamp, I decided I wanted to get a good close up
look at an alligator. There were plenty of them; it was just a matter of
finding one which we could get close to. Eventually I spotted a likely
candidate: down a little dead-end side slough I spotted a robust nine footer
basking at the edge of his hole. This hole was a space at the end of the
slough; the space was maybe fifteen or twenty feet wide and roughly
circular. As we approached, the alligator showed no sign of interest in us.
Naturally, I took that as an invitation to move in closer. By then we were
maybe twenty feet away from the alligator, and from that distance it was
apparent that the alligator was closer to twelve or thirteen feet long. It
was definitely bigger around than I am and certainly weighed a lot more. Why
does it sound as if I'm evaluating a potential wrestling partner? 

We were sitting in the little boat all this time. I took a few pictures. Not
satisfied, I decided to move in closer and stand up in the little boat (have
I mentioned that it was a little boat? It certainly wasn't a twelve or
thirteen foot boat!). Now I'm not a boat person; I'm not afraid of boats
(read on: maybe I should be); but I have never had much experience with
them. If I had, I would never have stood up. The boat was rocking a bit like
a Ferris wheel seat. Wayne was getting a bit of motion sickness. 

And that's when it happened. If you didn't exactly see this, it might be
hard to believe. But that huge alligator suddenly - and I really mean
suddenly - threw itself from the bank into the water of its hole in what
seemed to be one effortless motion. The alligator seems to have overlooked
the inconvenient circumstance that we were also utilizing much of that same
space. A robust wave nearly capsized the boat. Miraculously I didn't go into
the water to become gator snacks. I instinctively dropped to the bottom of
the boat (which, I'm pretty sure, was probably perpendicular to the water
surface briefly) and held on for dear life. 

Luckily for us, the alligator was neither particularly territorial nor
aggressive. That was the last we saw of it. 

Since I'm the member of the team with the background in zoology, Wayne was
inclined to believe me as I reassured him all along that alligators rarely
attack people. Little did he realize that it wasn't the aggressiveness of
the alligators he had to worry about: it was the stupidity of his companion!
Life was hard for him for awhile, but now that he has Google and wikipedia,
he has two good weapons for dealing with Jimmy-speak. 

I've got some good snake stories, too, if anyone is interested. But I seem
to remember that the last time I brought up the topic of snakes on this
list, the response was anything but encouraging.  

Jim McKenney
Montgomery County, Maryland, USA, USDA zone 7
My Virtual Maryland Garden
Webmaster Potomac Valley Chapter, NARGS 
Editor PVC Bulletin 
Webmaster Potomac Lily Society

More information about the pbs mailing list