My Dad has taught me a lot of things in my lifetime. I think he’s quite the character.
One summer my Dad took us on a long vacation to Florida. We got to go to Disney World and Epcot Center. I was just old enough to Really enjoy Disney World and be Fascinated by Epcot Center but not old enough to be a jaded emo teen who thought Disney was stupid yet. This trip was the road trip I would measure other vacations against for years to come. It was a two day drive south from where we lived to the condo we got to stay at and if I remember correctly we arrived very late at night on that second long driving day. Which is probably why we didn’t notice the signs until we were leaving to head to Disney the next morning.
“No Swimming! Beware of Alligators”
Holy shit Florida was Cool! There were alligators living right here in the condos!
I didn’t really think about the signs again since we spent the next two days from sunup to sundown at the Disney parks being entertained and overstimulated. But it seems my Dad had been thinking about it and he wanted more than a picture of just the sign to show his friends back home. I’m not exactly sure what his plan was but I am sure it didn’t quite go as he expected.
The condos all had screened in back porches that faced a largish pond. The pond was about the size of an olympic swimming pool only it had kind of a swampy vibe going on with it even though the grass all around it was trimmed nice and neat. Occasionally we could see what looking like a log floating near the shore. None of us girls thought venturing outside of the screened in back porch was a great idea but my Dad had his camera and sort of causal disregard for rules that might interfere with getting something he wanted. He grabbed some of the kraft cheese slices we had for sandwiches then headed out back with his camera.
At first I didn’t get what was the cheese was for. But Dad had decided that a picture of a gators head just floating in the water was too tame for him. The cheese was to tempt the beast out for a photoshoot. The three of us girls watched from the screen porch. My Stepmom kept up a low southern accent flavored commentary on the level of stupidity she was watching. After confirming that yes indeed the thing we thought might be a log was in fact an alligator Dad started with pictures from the shore. Not really satisfied with that he took out the cheese slices, unwrapped one and tossed part of it into the water near the gator. The snout moved a little bit in that direction. Dad threw the next piece. It landed directly on the gators snout.
There was a little thrash and the cheese disappeared. Now the gator was moving towards the shore and my Dad. My Dad was taking pictures. He backed up a step to keep the critter in frame then threw another piece of cheese on the grass near the water’s edge. The gator emerged a little bit from the water to get the cheese, its mouth opening as it tilted its head. A quick snap and the cheese was gone again while the gator started to slide back into the water. My Dad reached in his pocket for another piece of cheese. That’s when wildlife photography got a bit more wild than expected. The gator saw the cheese in my Dad’s hand and surged up out of the pond towards him.
My Dad, in a surprisingly spritely move, hopped up onto the picnic table near the shore. First just on to the bench seat then as the gator kept coming he hopped all the way to the table top. (Who puts a picnic table near a gator infested pond anyway?) From our vantage point in the safety of the back porch it looked like the alligator, its mouth wide open, was about to eat my Dad while he snapped away with his camera. Dad took a few more shots of the 6 foot long gator that was now completely out of the water and hissing. He then tossed the last of cheese towards the waters edge.
The gator turned to follow the cheese. Dad waited half a beat to make sure the animal was going for the cheese then jumped off the table and booked it back to our condo. My Stepmom chewed him up one side and down the other once he was safe but Dad seemed happy as a clam as he wandered off to change the film in his camera.
The pictures of the encounter I’m sure took a place of pride in his next after dinner vacation slide show for his friends. Just as I’m sure my Stepmoms exasperated southern sighs punctuated his recounting of the tale.