Anyone who works or plays in the swamps of Florida has a tale or two about encounters with gators, snakes, or some creepy animal. And we all love to share those tales, like war stories.
I was in a creek with John once (remember John the mentor?). It was a small creek, six feet wide and one foot deep at most, and we’d been in it a dozen times or so. It was the kind of place you wouldn’t ever think anything large could live in. As I walked down the middle of it, which was easier than navigating the vegetated banks, I was stirring up a bunch of sand in the water column (there’s some nerdy terminology for you!). I was coming around a bend when all of sudden a ray of light pierced the sand trail and reflected off of something dark and strange in the water just a couple of feet away from me. My instincts told me to get out of the creek and onto the bank, so I immediately hopped out. As John and I watched the sand clear, a six foot gator was revealed, resting completely under the water! I am not exaggerating when I say that if I had taken one step further I would have stepped on its head, as the glimpse that I had caught was of its back or tail (I can’t say for sure).
This encounter turned my world upside down for a few days… I mean, I never thought I’d have to worry about gators in a tiny little stream. I kept replaying the moment in my head over and over again thinking of what could have happened to me if I had taken one more step, if I hadn’t been watching the sand, if the light hadn’t caught the scales at that exact moment. Could I have lost a limb? Could John have gotten me out of the middle of nowhere if I needed rescuing? I still cringe when I think about it. Nothing bad had happened, BUT IT COULD HAVE. And it could have been REALLY BAD.
The weird thing is, I wasn’t with Jacque when she had her experience at Grasshopper Slough, and she wasn’t with me when I had my experience. But our gator encounters actually happened within a week of eachother. Even though our specific encounters were different, we went through the same emotional turmoil together. We feel so lucky to have felt that sixth sense and to have trusted our instincts. We feel lucky to be able to share our tales today.