Sleeping Alligator

The day was warm, sometime in the spring or early summer, The water level was unusually high, as I recall. This particular trip to Camp Six Pack in the Big Cypress was not a hunting trip but rather a trip to repair the roof of the sleeping cabin. Steve, Jon, Tony, Hoss, Tom and myself (Jim) were there. We had finished roofing the cabin and had some free time to goof off. When Steve decided he wanted to walk around the pine island to look for any signs of game or maybe to pick out a likely site to place a tree stand. He asked me if I wanted to go along and I said "sure". I recall wearing my combat boots from my tour of duty with the Air Force. I remembered that these boots had certainly lasted a long time and been through some rough times, as we were slogging through the wet buggy trails to the east of Camp Six Pack.
Steve wanted to see how high the water was in the Flag Pond. Flag ponds get their names from the vegetation at the center of the Cypress Tree Strands. I don't know the botanical name for these plants, but the flower portion looks similar to a white flag waving in the sea of green that surrounds them.This pond is frequently the home of alligators and I recall thinking that we could stumble across one if we continued going deeper in the Flag pond. The water was well over my thigh when we thought better of going further in. These cypress strands are one of my favorite places in the Big Cypress and few people have ever been in one and I recall thinking how beautiful and serene they seemed to be. They are a cool respite to the warm high grounds that surround them.
It seemed only logical that coming out on the other side of the flag pond, we would find the water table to be lower and and therefore less likely for alligators to be stumbled upon. What we found was an area of cypress that had been logged many years ago. At one time there was rail system that went from the hard road (Tamiami Trail) to the logging sites throughout the Big Cypress. The railroad ties were made from cutting cypress trees and laying them as a base for the rail system. The logging was profitable when cypress trees were being used as fence posts many years ago. These fence post lasted a long time because of the cypress trees resistance to weather after harvesting. The area we had just come out on, had been one of the harvest sites for the logging of cypress trees.

I recall saying to Steve that the stumps from the harvest of these trees were very large as he and I were both standing on one with the water still above our boots and I was just about ready to step off of the stump when Steve held me back and pointed down at our feet. There, right at our feet in the water was a six foot alligator. Steve said don't move, but my feet were already going backwards to get on the other side of the cypress stump from this prehistoric beast. Steve slowly backed off himself and as we composed ourselves and discussed how close I came to stepping on this gator's head. Steve spotted a narrow cypress tree log and motioned me to be quiet as he slowly approached to within tapping distance to what had to be a sleeping alligator, taking an afternoon siesta. Steve lightly tapped the snout of the alligator and the sleeping alligator became a wall of water that exploded as he tore through the water towards the Flag pond we had just come through. I only know the direction because It moved so fast the wake he created washed over the top of the cypress stump, I had taken refuge on. Later when we talked about it we wondered why we just didn't jump on it's back and wrestle it like the Indians do. Yea right!

This story provided by Jim 12/00

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