My wife and I recently traveled to Florida to hunt unicorns. We figured the definitive place to stalk these creatures was at that one-horned appendage hanging off the southeast corner of our continent.
And we were right. We found plenty of unicorns in the Sunshine state, of many strange and different varieties. And the most unusual was a green scaly beast called a “gator”.
We hired a man with an airboat to take us into the Everglades, as I wasn’t too keen on hiking in with waders. He called himself Captain Bocephus, and he claimed to know where all the gators were hiding. And he was right. Cap’n Bo knew how to scare up a passel of ‘em.
Actually, he called them out, making a crying “Owww, Owww, Owww” noise, that he claimed was the sound of a baby alligator in distress. Apparently, female alligators have powerful maternal instincts, and quickly come to the call of baby alligators in need of rescue.
Males are attracted by this call, also. But not for the purpose of protecting the babies. They want to eat them.
I’d never seen an alligator in the wilds before, so you can imagine my horripilation when these giant water lizards swam up to edge of the low-decked airboat, within feet of my feet.
But Cap’n Bo reassured that they were more afraid of us than we were of them. And that in all his years of commanding an airboat, no alligator had ever jumped onto the deck. Yet. Even though they easily could, I thought I heard him utter as an aside.
It was uncanny how many gators were attracted to the airboat. Cap’n Bo would shut off the engine in the midst of a swampy canal, and then scan for alligators, while making his baby gator distress calls. And he always spotted them before my wife and I could see them. They’d be making a beeline straight for the boat, their heads forming a V-shaped wake. And they were possessed with an eagerness that belied hunger, and the expectancy of a dinner of fine delicacies.
“I don’t feed ‘em, of course,” Cap’n Bo emphasized. “Why, if I were to be caught feeding ‘em, I’d be fined bigtime, my boat would be confiscated, and I’d lose my license.”
And yet those gators would vigorously bump the boat with their noses, acting as if they wanted something. Could a baby alligator distress call be that compelling to these mammoth killers?
If so, the mothering instinct of an alligator is not to be underestimated. Like grizzly bears, don’t come between a female alligator and her offspring. She has a heart as big as a tree stump, and jaws powerful enough to give you four stumps.
If not, then Captain Bocephus is a big fat liar, who secretly feeds these swamp lizards, so he can show them off to tourists. But no matter. We were impressed either way.
As the tenebrous fingers of twilight grasped our swampy surroundings, Cap’n Bo fired up the fan and motored us out onto an open grassy area. He pointed the airboat toward the setting sun, where we watched a ball of fire sink into the Everglades. It was romantic.
Finally, through the wind-chilled dusk, and clouds of gnats and skeeters, we raced over reeds toward the shoreline dock. Our paid hours were up, and it was time for us landlubbers to return to our element.
We’d had a successful day of unicorn hunting. But we knew we could bag more, in the fantastic flatlands of Florida. We just needed some sleep.