by Ruth, aka Momma Frizzle
I sometimes feel sorry for folks who’ve just moved to Florida. What they find is certainly more untamed than what they expect. We have such a polished veneer, carefully crafted by decades of alluring marketing. It’s easy to forget that underneath all the glamor, the Sunshine State is really still a wild frontier.
A glance in the water proves the point. It is an absolute truth that every body of water in Florida contains alligators. Some are huge and some are tiny, but they are always there. In the summer, alligators stay submerged in the warm water and are rarely seen. But as the water cools, the huge reptiles head for the shore to bask in temperature-regulating sunshine. Fall and winter are the best time to observe Florida’s most ancient residents. And it’s easy to do.
Yesterday, I looked out my bedroom window and found our own pond resident sunning itself on the muddy bank. It’s been a couple months since I saw him last. Like me, he appears to have grown over the summer. He’s sleek and shiny, every bit of six feet long, with a wide middle. I watched him for several minutes, until a ruckus caught my attention.
My neighbor was setting up a tent in his backyard. His two young sons were helping. My kids were running around playing tag. All of them oblivious to the gator just down the hill about 25 yards away.
This amused me. I stood there smiling and didn’t bother to warn any of them.
All the kids are Florida natives. We’ve raised them among the alligators. And black bears and panthers and coral snakes and wild hogs and black widow spiders and bobcats that roam our posh communities and landscaped lawns. For these kids, a Florida backyard is a gateway to discovery.
You can’t be too afraid here or you’d never go outside. Just be watchful and smart and adventurous. But don’t be fooled. Because even in the swankiest Florida resort, you are never that far removed from our wildlife.
Photo credit: Bear photo by Becky Erwin, photographing a black bear on my friend Tracey’s front porch this week.