She was carrying a wad of bedsheets as she stepped out the back door en route to the laundry room when she stumbled upon the dinosaur.
“Well, good morning,” Barbara Baroni said to the alligator — 8 feet long, she guessed — that was stretched out in her carport around 7 a.m. Thursday.
She slowly backed up into the house and called the security office at Hilton Head Plantation.
She noticed the door to her husband’s workshop was open.
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She’d soon discover the gator had let itself into the shop refrigerator — and done something that would have repercussions for the impending Thanksgiving festivities.
The whole experience was, at once, marvelous and funny and sad. If nothing else, it’s a day she’ll remember.
When she first saw the animal, she thought it might have been a practical joke: Her husband, Bob, and his construction crew, had been doing some work at the couple’s Hilton Head Island home and, well ...
“They don’t look real,” she said, remembering creatures she’d seen up close in the past. “They almost look like rubber.”
But this one was, in Baroni’s words, a genuine “dinosaur” — “A freakin’ piece of history!”
She’d seen snakes — lots of snakes — around her house during her 26 years on the island, but this was the first time a gator had visited the residence.
She called her husband at work, and one of his crews showed up armed with Duck Tape and marine twine. Many on the crew were from Nicaragua, Baroni said, and they spoke in Spanish as they worked. They managed to bind the gator’s legs and tape its mouth, and they moved it to the yard.
As it laid there, Baroni talked to it.
“It’s not his fault,” she said.
Later, workers from Critter Management removed the animal, she said, confirmed by Peter Kristian, general manager of Hilton Head Plantation’s property owners association.
Alligators have been known to visit Lowcountry homes in the past.
In May, a North Charleston man found a three-legged specimen at his front door in the predawn hours. In April 2017, a Mount Pleasant family discovered a 9-footer had climbed a flight of stairs to get on their porch. And a lot of folks remember the images from May 2016, when a Moncks Corner lizard climbed the front door and looked like it was reaching for the doorbell.
On Thursday, upon further inspection of the shop, Baroni found the gator had knocked over some of her husband’s tools and a gas can.
She saw the room’s refrigerator was open, the freezer slightly less so.
There were a couple of steaks in the freezer, she said, hypothesizing that maybe, somehow, the alligator could smell them.
There was broken glass on the floor.
Tili Grechetto, a dry, white that pairs well with fish, according to the vineyard’s website.
Five bottles’ worth.
Sent to the Baronis by friends in Italy.
But, this year, not on the Thanksgiving Day menu.
Reporter Katherine Kokal contributed to this story.