A week or so ago, the kids and I entered our neighborhood which has a small pond on either side. "There's an alligator!" one said. I wheeled around to get a better look, and, sure enough, a large reptile lay sunning on the opposite bank. "Um, stay away from there," I suggested. Our house is diagonally across the street.
When I told Bill, he asked if I had told any of the other residents who might take action. "Oh, he was only about 5 or 6 feet long," I said. "They aren't territorial and dangerous until they reach 8 feet." I don't know how he's managed to live in this part of the country for this long without that vital knowledge.
Sand gnats are a local pest. I never realized just how awful a tiny little gnat could be. These gnats bite and leave itchy welts like mosquito bites. They start showing up in March and love the same weather that we do: moderate humidity and mid-70 degree temps. But once the humidity and temps start going up, they disappear until the fall. Unfortunately, they are replaced by deer flies which are worse. You can run away from sand gnats. The flies chase you.
The general rule is that the flies are out from Mother's Day to Father's Day, then, they too, die off. This year, they started being a problem in April, long before Mother's Day. The flies are not nocturnal, so I have learned to head out for my morning run (now my morning walk) before the dawn's early light. Once the sky begins to show a hint of color and you can begin to see without the aid of the streetlamps, the flies begin their attack.
Around here, the pre-dawn light begins by 6 am, so if I'm not out by 530 am, I will get bitten.
I never really felt that general knowledge of alligators was necessary, because I had never lived in an area where they also lived.
Unlike the annoying deer flies, alligators are nocturnal.
We were supposed to have been moved by now - by March, actually. When Bill was extended, the first thing I said was, "I can't believe you're making me live through another gnat and fly season." There are a lot of things I have enjoyed about this area, but they are the biggest detractors. Once those pests are gone, it is usually very hot every day. I love sitting outdoors, sipping my morning coffee while the sun rises or eating dinner al fresco. But I don't like sweltering...or being eaten alive. I have spent much less time on our back deck then I would have preferred.
The morning after the kids spotted the alligator, I went out for my morning walk extra early so I could do two miles before 6 am. It was very dark, with no help from the moon between the few scattered streetlights. As I passed the pond, I heard some strange noises. That was when I remembered the alligator. And that was when I remembered they were nocturnal, especially when hunting for a meal.
That was when I started doubting my ability to judge the difference between 6 feet in length and 8 feet in length from across a pond.
And started doubting the veracity of my sources on how "harmless" alligators were before reaching 8 feet. Really, what's so magical about 96 inches? What if the creature is 95 inches?
I considered putting my dog between me and the pond, and I hurried past with no incidents. On the second lap, several early morning car-commuters were in the area, so I felt a bit more secure.
I wasn't able to get out early the rest of the week. And the alligator has not been seen again.
Since returning from Tampa, I noticed no complaining from the kids about the flies as they played in the back. And Bill took the kids out for a bike ride and nobody mentioned being attacked.
This morning, I went out a bit later, and noticed that the sun was coming up even earlier, as it does this time of year. By the time I had completed two miles, it was quite light, and I had only had a few lethargic flies meander by me. I saw no large lizards by the pond nor heard any unusual noises.
As an added bonus, the humidity was moderate and the temperature was in the low 60's, although expected to rise by more than 20 degrees today. I guess the early start to fly season has meant an early end to fly season. How lovely.
I'm not ready to rest easy about the alligator quite yet. I've not seen a single duck or goose hanging around the front. Nor have I seen them in the larger pond in the back. Bird excrement is unpleasant, but at least it's a sign that no predators are roaming the streets, day or night. I shall have to talk to some neighbors to see if anybody else has spotted the thing.
For now, I'll enjoy an extra half hour of sleep and a full two mile walk while we still have spring-like mornings.