2007.11.28 A reptilian smooch

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

I learned something important about myself last week. Given the choice, I would kiss an alligator’s backside before going for the cheek of a woman—an alligator-wrestling woman.

I wanted to give a quick list of “things I learned last week in Florida.” It was to be an easy column to get the chore done so I could concentrate on the much more difficult task of getting a newspaper published after leaving town for a few days.

We did our second annual Take a Turkey to Miami extended weekend to visit our son, Ben. A line often spoken beforehand went something like, “And I’ll suffer on Monday after we return.”

It’s Monday and I’m suffering. Actually, it’s now early Tuesday morning and I’m suffering.

Several of the things I learned had to do with alligators, so I might as well focus on that. The original list wasn’t long enough anyway.

We had breakfast Friday with former Morenci resident David Carlson and his wife, Mercedes, and they suggested that we take an airboat ride through the Everglades. It wasn’t on my list of things to do, but I was interested in seeing the Everglades.

Off we went the next morning to climb aboard the 50-seat boat commandeered by Jeff the Joker.

“How many of you are about to take your first ride in an airboat?”

Most hands went up, if not all of them.

“Me, too,” Jeff said, with his big grin.

My parents joined us on this visit to the south and my father and I both agreed: the Everglades wasn’t what we expected. We had mental images of a swampy area heavy with trees and hanging Spanish moss and small streams flowing here and there. And with alligators, of course.

We were partially right. There were some alligators, but there were few trees. It’s a wide open expanse of sawgrass with channels of slowly moving water.

When Jeff’s tour ended, we were directed into an area with large concrete seats and soon a woman arrived to teach us about alligators.

She stood inside an enclosed area with half a dozen or so gators. Every so often she would toss a wad of meat into an open mouth.

Eventually she said she needed an assistant. I don’t know if she used the word “volunteer” or “victim.” She pointed to me standing up on the top row for a good view and said, “We haven’t heard anything from you. Do you speak English?”

That question makes sense in southern Florida. Next she asked if I had any heart problems.

Satisfied with my answers, she went to fetch a small alligator. She had me touch its side and smell my finger. She wondered which smelled worse, the alligator or the man she pointed to in the audience. She fingered my father. My finger had no odor; I didn’t check my father.

She pointed to an area on the alligator’s underside, the cloaca, and said that it could be manipulated to determine the sex of the little beast. She wanted me to do that. I reached toward it and she lunged and made a loud noise. That was the heart test.

Next I held the alligator and finally was given the choice: Kiss the backside of the alligator or the backside of the woman and sometimes alligator wrestler. Actually the choice was the alligator or her cheek.

I thought it over. My wife was in the audience. Would she want me kissing another woman? Would she want me kissing an alligator? I went for the gator which I’m sure everyone does.

We were assured that the alligators there really like their caged areas. They enjoy having meat thrown into their mouths and they don’t have to do anything but lie around all day, which is pretty much what they do anyway.

I don’t have room for many “things I learned,” but here are a few:

• Dogs are allowed inside many Miami area restaurants.

• Crickets in southern Florida chirp at a higher pitch than those in the north.

• Plantain chips have no resemblance to bananas. The same cannot be said for fried plantains.

• When Cubans go out for dinner, they enjoy a raucous good time.

I’m glad Ben didn’t try to get a job in Grand Rapids or Chicago. It’s so otherworldly down in Miami with so much in bloom on 80° late-November days. I think I’m now ready to face  the winter.

  • Cecil
    THE MAYOR—Cecil Schoonover poses with a collection of garden gnomes that mysteriously arrive and disappear from his property. Along with the gnomes, someone created the sign stating that he is the Mayor of Gnomesville. He hasn’t yet tracked down the people involved in the prank, but he’s having a good time with the mystery.
  • Front.rest
    TAKE A BREAK—Last Wednesday’s session of Stair District Library’s Summer Reading Program ended with a quiet period in a class presented by yoga instructor Melany Gladieux of Toledo. Children learned a variety of yoga poses in the main room at the library, then finished off the session relaxing. Additional photos are on page 7. Area children are invited to visit the library today when the Michigan Science Center presents a flight program at 11 a.m. and roller coasters at 1 p.m.
  • Front.batter
    THE DERBY—Tyler “Smallpox” Flakne of Minnesota’s Home Run League All-Stars goes for the fence Friday night during the National Wiffle League Association’s home run derby in Morenci. This year the wiffleball national tournament moved from Dublin, Ohio, to Morenci’s Wakefield Park. During the derby, competitors had two minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. The winner this year finished with 21. See page 6 and 7 for additional photos.
  • Front.green Screen
    OUT OF THIS WORLD—Elizabeth McFadden and Elise Christle pose in front of the green screen as VolunTeen Noah Gilson makes them appear as though they are standing on the Moon. More photos from the Stair District Library’s NASA @ My Library program are on page 12.
  • Front.snake
    Lannis Smith of the Leslie Science and Nature Center in Ann Arbor shows off a python last week at Stair District Library's Summer Reading Program.
  • Front.fireworks
    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.
  • Pipeline Spread
    LINED UP—Lengths of pipe were put in place last week along the route of the Rover natural gas pipeline that will stretch from Defiance, Ohio, to Ontario, Canada. Topsoil was removed before the pipes were laid out. The 42-inch diameter pipeline is scheduled for completion in November.
  • Front.rock Study
    ROCKHOUNDS—From the left, Joseph McCullough, Sean Pagett and Jonathan McCullough peer through hand lenses to study rocks. The project is part of Morenci Elementary School’s summer camp that continues into August.

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