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Shell Shocked: Alligators — Sanibel’s national reptile

By Staff | Sep 16, 2010

I never tire of writing about alligators because they seem to be the main topic of conversation in Sanibel.

They enliven beach, restaurant and cocktail party chatter. They make for lively, if not disconcerting, reading in the news columns of The Islander and other publications. Alligators bring out the jungle in us and make us forget the cold, lonely winters in Minnesota or Iowa.

Alligators come with the territory. If you’re committed to Sanibel, as I am, you have to come prepared to talk or think about alligators some part of every day and come to terms with them.

For example, my wife and I were taking a stroll on the beach recently when she stopped suddenly. “Isn’t that an alligator over there?” she asked, pointing animatedly. She was eyeing something about a hundred yards down the beach while balancing herself on the balls of her feet as though she were ready to run the hundred-yard dash in world record time.

My eyesight is fairly normal but I had to squint hard to see what she was pointing at. It looked like a dead log to me, not a live alligator — and I told her so.

“No,” she insisted. “That’s an alligator. Look at those mean eyes. You’d better call the police. Hurry.”

I took a few steps closer to get a better look and my wife screamed at me. “Are you crazy? Do you want to get your toes bitten off? Call the police or else that alligator’s going to eat us all.”

I tiptoed closer to get yet an even better look while my wife screamed something about how it’s a good thing I had updated my will recently. Sure enough, it was a dead log. I poked it just to be sure.

“See? It’s not an alligator. It’s a piece of wood. You’re like the boy who cried wolf. You could have panicked half the beach,” I said.

My wife was not to be denied. “Well, it could have been an alligator. And, if it were, don’t you think you were a little too blasé about the whole thing? From where I first spotted it, you couldn’t really tell if it was or wasn’t. Better to be safe than sorry.”

I couldn’t win. If it was an alligator, I didn’t take it seriously enough. And if it wasn’t an alligator…get the drift of my meaning?

But, put my wife in another setting, and a whole different set of dynamics takes place. Put her in “Ding” Darling and you’d find her whistling a different tune.

“We’ve been walking for a half hour and I haven’t seen a single alligator yet. What kind of wildlife preserve is this anyway?” she complained.

“But dear,” I tried to explain, “alligators don’t walk around with signs around their necks saying, ‘Here I am; pet me and play with me.’ They’re wary of people, as well they should be. Besides, I thought you were afraid of alligators.”

Her explanation seemed perfectly plausible to me. “On the beach I am. Here, I’m not. This is where they live.”

Go try to figure that one out.