Sharks, and Alligators, and . . . OH MY! - Kathryn C. Lang

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Sharks, and Alligators, and . . . OH MY!

I’m not paranoid, I just don’t like sharks.  Because I now have children and because children have an uncanny way of copying my likes and dislikes, I’ve been working hard to overcome my deep, deep, deep, dislike of these creatures (and their land cousins).

It all started with a magazine I read about the mega sharks.  It talked about the amazing hunting skills these creatures, and all sharks, possess.  They could smell the idea of blood from 100 miles away (okay, that was an exaggeration, but sharks really are amazing hunters).

Living in North Alabama, I didn’t have to worry much about sharks, but my friends teased that one day sharks would walk on land just to get at me.  Now let's fast forward to college, which I attended in Mobile, Alabama.  My first night there, we got off on a discussion about my feelings towards sharks.  My new friends loaded me up and drove me to the city park (just two miles from my dorm room.  Posted all around the pond are signs that say “no swimming - alligators”. 

Thus, my feelings for alligators were born, and it has continued to grow over the years. 

First there was my stint as a lifeguard at the Gulf State Park, in Gulf Shores, Alabama.  Right after I signed the employment contract the guy says “oh, I forgot to mention that we have alligators, but we haven’t seen one in the swimming area in about three years.”

“Great,” I thought to myself, “I would much rather we not be able to see them.”

My first day on the job was a bit tense.  If something moved in the water, I watched closely, whistle poised, just in case I needed to get everyone out of the water.  I didn’t have to wait long.  I was literally on the lifeguard stand for two hours when I spotted my first - live and in the wild - alligator.  Who cares that it was only a foot long.   Who cares that all it did was stick its little head up, look around, and then go away.   It was alive, and it was an alligator. 

We spotted one every week from there on out.  (Did you know that alligators smile?  They do at me anyway.)  It was a plot.  They were all out to get me.  If I wasn’t on duty, the alligators just didn’t show up.  I changed my cologne, my soap, even the color of my swim suit.  But they always knew where I was.

I wasn’t much on the life saving that summer, but it was at that lake that I became convinced of an alligator conspiracy.   And I knew that since the alligators and sharks are really the same thing, then they must share information.  They all knew.  I wasn’t safe in any of the water.  I did the only thing I could; I moved back to north Alabama.

Whew!  There were no more bayous and no more oceans.  Back in the north, I was far away from the fangs, and those grins.  I felt safe, but it turns out I wasn’t. 

It was all the beavers’ fault.  These horrible damn creatures were causing problems in Wheeler Wildlife Refuge (which just happens to be a short swim up the river from where I live). Someone had the brilliant idea to use alligators to thin out the beaver population.  After all, the alligators wouldn’t possible survive our winters up here (like they have never seen a horror movie like Lake Placid – the creatures ALWAYS survive).

No one called to ask me what I thought.  I would have explained that a buck-toothed rodent was highly acceptable when compared to a man-eating machine.  Instead, the alligators were released, the beavers were thinned out, and the memo was sent to all the fellow alligators that just up the river is “that girl we all were told about.”  (At least, that’s the way it happened in my head).

Getting into the lake around here requires all of my concentration.  I can’t focus too much on what I can’t see.  I have to focus on all the “information” I’ve heard from the alligator “experts” about how the animals (that can kill me with one bite) are really afraid of me.  If I splash loud enough then they will go away, right?  Expect in “Jaws” it was the splashing that drew him in.

I think we may have to move on up to Tennessee.  There aren’t any alligators up there, are there?


One Response to Sharks, and Alligators, and . . . OH MY!

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