Steer clear of gators

Jul. 26, 2013 @ 04:41 PM

Knowing what I know now, it’s a good thing youthful ignorance of the murky water in Georgia lakes did not keep me from swimming or water-skiing in them as a child. My dad is Mr. Safety, and we had those life jackets knotted tightly, let me tell you, before the motor boat engine was even started. I was in no danger of drowning (and of course had taken American Red Cross certified swimming lessons already). In the 1980s when I lived in Augusta, Ga., there was no flesh eating bacteria in the news. No sightings of alligators, unless you went to go see them at Okefenokee Swamp, which I did on a field trip. A bigger threat was all the insects.

Living up here in the Northern South, I like to think of alligators as being a down in the swampy South creature – South Carolina on down. But the darn things can travel. And just because they’re not on our radar, doesn’t mean they don’t live here.
Earlier this summer on the way to vacation at Nags Head, I drove across the Alligator River. Now, naming a river Alligator River does not strike calm in the hearts of those who traverse it. Add in my logical apprehension about the potential disaster of vehicular accidents on bridges – verified by the recent Chesapeake Bay Bridge accident that resulted in a woman’s car going in the water, though miraculously she lived to tell the tale. That bridge to Virginia’s Eastern Shore is a white-knuckle bridge if there ever was one, made worse by not being able to see land on the other side.
So, back to the Alligator River bridge, which had railings so low I thought a summer breeze could send me off the side. Commence white knuckles. From the backseat, my son asked a question. No talking on the bridge, I said, I have to concentrate. I had my own questions. Were there alligators in that river? Did they know I tried gator at the N.C. State Fair? Could they sense it and be seeking revenge? I’ll tell you one thing. I won’t be going to any water’s edge in Jacksonville, N.C., considering an alligator ate a dog there last week.
I still have my VHS copy of “Lake Placid,” featuring everyone’s favorite elder actress, Betty White. Those alligators aren’t real. Alligators aren’t going to come after you like that. But if you’re small enough and close enough, you could become a snack. A slim chance of an alligator attack didn’t help that poor doggie in Jacksonville. Some chances aren’t worth taking. I’d rather git.
And really, bridge builders, why can’t you make the bridge railings higher for our peace of mind?
Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan may be reached at dvaughan@heraldsun.com or 919-419-6563.