Marlin Perkins would be proud. I know, I know… some of you, mostly the younger set, are sitting there thinking to yourselves… who the hell is Marlin Perkins? I’ll just say this… he was the famous animal guy of my generation. Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom… with Marlin Perkins. He went all over the world having strange encounters with unusual critters. It was sometimes funny, sometimes scary, and usually fascinating.
Sort of like our day today. Hence the reason for the title of this little missive. Today started with a viewing of a huge sink hole. It’s famous here. The Devil’s Milhopper (not sure if I’m spelling Milhopper correctly, but you get the idea). It’s basically one big hole. Not too much wildlife there, though signs said we might see various birds, etc. We didn’t. The only wildlife we did see were the other tourists, or possibly locales. One woman was wearing her slippers. We figured she was from town and just wanted to get out of the house for a bit. At least, that was our guess. How do we really know. Maybe she travels frequently and finds no other footwear as comfortable as her “house shoes”.
Next we were off, after a nice picnic lunch, to Paine’s Prairie state park. Again I’m not sure on the spelling of it, but this place was pretty cool. Lots of Spanish moss hanging from the trees, a lake, a HUGE snake (luckily in the reeds by the lake and not too near the path), and a Anhinga (pronounced A Hinga) catching and then eating, whole, what looked like a mid-sized bass. The bass didn’t look like it would go down the birds skinny neck, but did.
Afterwards we went in search of alligators. I’ve seen them in parks, but never in the wild. Looking for alligators is a tricky business. You want to see them, because seeing one would be most excellent, but you don’t want to see them too up close and personal. We went to the observation tower near the park’s visitors center in hopes of getting a glimpse of one. We didn’t, but we did see a bald eagle. Very cool.
Next we stopped at an observation point outside the park to see what we might see there. What we saw was not an alligator, but a condom thrown into the marsh. This was not a find that engendered optimism about locating an alligator. However, the stop was salvaged by the fact that there was, along the side of the road near the pull out, a painter painting what was turning out to be a huge and lovely landscape. We wandered over to chat with him. He commented that the clouds, “over there”, said with a gesture pointing towards a direction over our shoulders, had looked different a while earlier, and now were not as pretty. We assured him his work, thus far, was lovely. He thanked us and went back to it. We went back to the car, jumped in, and continued our search for the elusive alligator.
From here our journey took us to binnet’s arm… no, maybe that was biven’s arm. Well, I can’t remember who’s arm, but basically it was a body of water behind a hotel in the red light district. This particular body of water, according to our guide, had been the place where many an alligator had been spotted in the past. Not, however, on this day. We did spot several cat people. Not people who looked like cats, but people who own and love cats. It seems there was a cat show going on at the hotel. One of them, a woman, was standing at the back of her van either loading something in or taking some cat thing out. All I can say is, she had everything a cat could or would ever want or need in the back of that van. You could tell, just by looking at it… her cat was loved.
Lastly our journey took us to the college campus. Gainesville is where the University of Florida happens to be. Those of you who are college sports fans already know this. I knew this. However, I didn’t know there was a lake, Lake Alice, in the middle of campus, and that the lake has alligators in it. We found the lake and at last, found alligators. One small one, and one large one. A very cool site. Mostly because I’d never seen one in person, out the wild… and also because when I did finally see them, they were at a bit of a distance. I was in no danger of becoming an alligator kipper snack and all was right with the world.
While we were wandering around the shores of Lake Alice, a man asked us if we were there to watch the bats. Seems they used to have a lot of bats in the baseball stadium on the University campus. This was, at times, very annoying to those who attended the evening baseball games as the bats tended to fly about at dusk, creating, I’m sure, a certain measure of alarm. The resolution… build a bat house. A place, close to the lake, where the bats could hang… every pun intended. After being asked, we decided we couldn’t pass up watching the bats, after all, it was nearly dusk… which meant it was almost time. We wandered over, found ourselves a nice perch on a nearby picnic table, and waited… and then… they came in droves. Hundreds of bats pouring out of their bat condo and flying over to the lake for their evening meal. They do it every night. And I’m sure, every night, it’s as cool as it was tonight.
We ended the day with dinner at an Italian place frequented by one of our hosts. Very tasty.
But… this was not, as it would seem, the end of our days animal adventures. Unknown to us, there was one more in store for us, and more to the point, our hosts. We got back to the house and noticed, as we parked near the garage, a furry thing laying in the driveway. We thought, on brief glance, it was one of the dogs play toys. Our hostess jumped out of the car and went over to pick up the “play toy” and move it out of the way. She reached down and discovered, on touching it, that it was not a play toy, but an opossum. She screamed, because… well… who wouldn’t. Our host had to then go out and shoot it after he got home from work because the poor thing was still alive, barely. One of the dogs, we believe it was Tatlim, had chosen to “play” with it instead of one of his usual toys. He didn’t want to kill it, just throw it around a bit. Once it stopped moving a lot, he must have tired of it, dropping it in the driveway for us to find. Making this little wild kingdom adventure the most interactive of the day.
Tomorrow…. we head back to Tampa where the adventure continues…