….and there he was, tucked comfortably within the bubbly wall of splash, the cutest little alligator this side of Jurassic Park. “You starting to get the picture, Bucko?” #1-13 asked sarcastically as she watched the drama unfold with the rest of the chicks about 50 feet away.
Now, if we were in the movie, “Caddy Shack,” which by the way, is a must see for anyone dealing with pests, human or otherwise, while endeavoring to understand the true meaning of the universe, we would simply drain the pool. But we’re not, so into the water we went, Hilary on one end of the net and me on the other, as we stretched it out to its full length and began pulling it across the pond. Our first trawl… nothing. But on our second, as we beached the net, there he was with a giant thought balloon above his head which said, “Two hundred million years and I’m the first gator to be caught by two idiots wearing white costumes! Bummer!”
It was then that I heard playing in the background the national anthem of my world, “What Do We Do Now?” I had been taught at a very early age to stand at attention with my hand over my heart whenever I heard it played, but some days all that standing at attention just eats up my whole day! Guess I must have slept through that “Alligator Catching 101” class in college. Fortunately for me, Hilary was no stranger to “The Wonderful World of Animals That Can Bite You.” Her world at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is filled with them. Like the other five zoo keepers who have assisted us during this winter’s crane monitoring who work daily with animals like tigers, hippos, komodo dragons, rhinos, 16 foot Nile crocodiles and a whole lot of other serious critters that go bump in the night, she is a true professional. To her, our little visitor was not exactly heavy lifting. In no time she had his jaws zip tied shut, slid him into a crane costume (a nice touch, don’t you think?), bound him up in a quickly improvised plastic mesh cradle and was carrying him out of the pen.
Meanwhile, I was on my cell phone calling a Hollywood producer and making arrangements to have the gator shipped to the Hollywood sound studio where they film “Swamp People.” Turns out it’s right across the street from where they film the reruns of “Bonanza” for Me TV. (This week’s episode? Ben, Hoss, Adam, Little Joe Bob and Hop Sing are filling out questionnaires for Match.com while wearing camo cowboy boots. What makes this episode even more entertaining is the fact that they’re all dead! Gripping drama!) But before I could arrange a UPS pickup, Terry, the Refuge Manager, called and suggested we bring our little TV star wannabe to the Refuge Visitor’s Center where she would arrange for his release on the Refuge. As our pickup pulled into the parking lot, a crowd assembled and the little guy enjoyed his fifteen minutes of fame before being entered into the Witness Protection Program and released into his new home way far away from the crane pen.
That evening, we watched from blind as normalcy returned to the marsh and our little band of cranes lined up to roost comfortably in the pen. Just like old times. What a difference a day makes. The lesson here is simple. In the crane world, just as in the human world, actions speak louder than words. All you have to do is listen.