I live in suburban Charleston, South Carolina. I live in a development with an annoying HOA telling me what I can and cannot do at all times. It’s supposed to be a civilized place. There are houses built close to more houses. All this is situated around a 27-hole golf course. Since it was partly protected lands or something, there are a lot of trees and wetlands preserved.
Last week, and I don’t remember which day but it might have been Saturday, I was driving to the box. As I was winding my way through the curved streets built to make me drive slower (doesn’t really work, but it does limit my vision around curves) I had to almost stop the car in order to not hit what must have been a wild turkey crossing the road. Like the chicken before it, it did not give a reason. It was remarkably large. Hitting it would probably have dented the car and deployed the airbags.
But I blinked a couple times and watched the massive bird run into the trees on the other side of the road. (Addendum: I also stop to miss squirrels and they wouldn’t dent my car or anything, I just don’t like running over animals. I did run over a snake here a few years ago and even though I don’t think they are cute or anything, it did make me feel bad.)
Saturday, I did CrossFit Open 17.4 and that meant that Sunday, my legs hurt. Not so bad I couldn’t move, but I could tell I worked out the day before.
I spent the morning writing history essays which meant that I spent the morning sitting in my chair at my desk. This did not in any way, shape, or form help my legs.
We had winter last week with temperatures falling below freezing, something that happens in January and isn’t supposed to here in March. It was cold, especially for a Yankee Southern belle. But winter gave way to spring and Sunday was beautiful. Temperatures were in the mid-50s and the sun was shining. The wind was still a bit chilly, but I opted to get out of my chair and even more importantly to this story, out of the house.
There are three ways to walk around the block here. None of them are blocks, but they make a circular route. There is the small block which takes between ten and twelve minutes to navigate. There is the big block which is a 5k walk give or take a hundred meters or so. And then there is the medium block which takes around a half hour to complete.
I really didn’t know how far I was going to walk when I left the house, but as I continued on my way, I opted for the middle path, not too short and not too long. It felt just right. I walk at a fairly brisk pace, back straight, head high, talking to myself and solving my version of the world’s problems. I will notice something spectacular on my path at times, but I’m mostly oblivious and just letting my mind wander as my feet move me forward.
And so it was. I was being fairly oblivious to my surroundings. I was nearly home. The pool area is up the street from my house, about 250 meters from my yard. There is a sloping driveway down into the parking lot with the pool (now locked up) and the playground (available year round) and soccer fields. There are a lot of landscaping things around the edge of the Recreation Center and then some wetlands abutting that.
I was still there in the landscaped area when I caught movement off to my right. I looked and there, about 2-3 feet away from me was another of these damn woodland creatures. Except here, the woodlands are wetlands and the creatures include alligators. This teenager was about 5-6 feet long and resting among the shrubbery. He/she/it noticed me coming and had moved his/her/its head to get a better look. I, now aware of it, was seeing far more gator than I had ever hoped for. I had never been this close to one of them. I would be willing to wait forever to be this close again.
Here we were, two 5.5 feet tall/long beings both frightened half to death with the presence of the other. The gator stood up, I backed up. I inched toward the street, but there was a car coming. I had to choose between a car with hopefully an alert driver, and a beast that had grown into a possible serial killer in front of my eyes. I chose the street and yet, I had to get past the gator to get to my house.
I watched the gator as I inched around. The gator began to turn as I began to squirm. Finally, the killer gator turned back towards the trees/wetlands/Recreation Center and I got past the point where he/she/it had been lazily sunning. I think my heart rate was at about 25 wall balls pace.
I looked and the car had stopped to make sure I was okay. I don’t know if the driver or a passenger had seen the alligator or if I was just behaving so strangely, but I was okay, except for the adrenaline rush, the flushed feeling, the racing heart.
I hurried past my brush with death and remembered when Becky and I met the dog on one of our walks. We had frightened ourselves into a near panic before we got away from Cujo and were around the corner before we noticed the dog had been wagging its tail, happy to see us.
I’m pretty sure this gator was just as frightened by me as I was by the gator. This did not stop me from warning a man walking with his dog (and a tennis ball) toward the park. He needed to know there was a gator there and although the dog was big, the gator might not be as afraid of the dog as it was of me.
I know there are lots of deer here, as well. And so for my trifecta of wildlife encounters within my neighborhood, I’m hoping for a herbivore.