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Shell Shocked: Alligator redux

By Staff | Apr 28, 2020

Art Stevens

I’ve written about alligators before and undoubtedly, I will again. Our Sanibel alligators always seem to be in the news as well as in trouble. Various governmental agencies fight with each other for the right to control the comings and goings of alligators.

They want to control the number of alligators in Sanibel, where they wander, what they eat – and whom they eat.

Alligators are hardly in the category of endangered species but they sure make for good newspaper copy. When I have nothing else to do, which seems to be fairly often, I try to imagine what it would be like to be an alligator and have to abide by rules made by humans.

You do a backstroke in somebody’s swimming pool and you’re plucked out of the water in a huge net and whisked off to God knows where. If I were an alligator I’d at least want the punishment to fit the crime. If I wandered too far from my alligator reservation I would expect to write “don’t go near the humans” one hundred times in the mud with my nose. That’s only fair.

If a human tempted me with leftover blackened tuna from Timber’s and I followed that person to his condo, I would expect to be sent to my room without supper.

If I frightened children accidentally while working my huge mouth into a cavernous yawn, I would expect to sit in a corner wearing a dunce cap.

But what if I’m where I’m supposed to be – in my natural habitat, in a dank, dark swamp snoozing and snoring – and some foolhardy tourists make their way there? And I wake up to find them all gawking and pointing their iPhone cameras at me. What am I supposed to do?

After all, I am an alligator and I do have a reputation to uphold. As I decide what bestial alligator action to take, they’re shouting, “Smile, look at the camera.”

Then one of them says to another, “Joe, why don’t you go sit on the alligator’s back? It would make for a great shot.” And Joe sloshes through the swamp and to my amazement actually sits on my back. I’m so stunned I don’t know what to do.

I’m embarrassed and enraged. Is this any way to treat an alligator, king of the reptiles? I feel more like wimp of the reptiles. I think I’ll show some teeth.

“Joe, put your hand in the alligator’s mouth. They won’t believe it back home.” And Joe puts his hand in my mouth. Oh those humans. If I were really an alligator I’d have two choices – be a wimp and let Joe put his hand in my mouth or adroitly bite off a few fingers and show those humans that they can’t mess around with an alligator.

But if I did that, the humans would invade our habitat and give all of us alligators a lie detector test to find out who did away with several of Joe’s fingers.

It must be tough to be an alligator. Such a fierce reputation to uphold when all you really want to do is take a warm bath in your swamp.