Rolling into Gator Country – Gainesville, FL
All the locals tell me the gators are very laid back in Florida. I guess if I had 80 razor-sharp teeth, the jaw-strength of a pneumatic press, no known predators, and the only thing on my “to-do” list was to wait around for my next meal to wade by I’d be pretty relaxed too. Lakes in Florida are therefore nothing to be trifled with. The cool blue water looks enticing right up to the moment you see a scaly 6-foot reptile floating lazily past. Yes, folks, we’ve made it to gator country, and things are different here.
The North-Central part of FL is an odd mix of cowboy country, farms, horse breeders and bits of swamp. So, you’ll see rolling pasture and lush farms surrounded by lakes, swamp plants and…indeed…alligators. Despite the obvious allure of all this, the whole reason we came here was for a completely different kind of local reptile and that’s the Gainesville Gator, or rather the young, impressionable minds that attend the University of Florida. You see, the Gator is not just part of the local wildlife, it’s a mascot for the University and the people here are passionate about it.
Paul, as it so happens, is a Gator. For the non-locals I’ll attempt to convey what this means. Of course, the obvious explanation is that he attended the University. Paul went to Engineering School here and has many memories of long nights in the lab intermixed with fuzzy flashbacks of a very good time. The not-so-obvious consequence of this is that he developed a uncontrollable draw to the color orange and whenever the Gators are playing (American football that is) he’ll don the outfit and walk around clamping his arms up and down (think gator jaws) and making noises somewhat like the theme music of Jaws. It’s the universal Gator-call, and no matter what your age, as a fellow Gator you answer in response. We’ve met many of these species in our cross-country travels and they inevitably bond like herding fish when they meet.
So, I took my little Gator-man to the University, heard many a tale of his time there, bought a few Gator items and swept happily home to share the story over again with the Gators at the campground. I may not like the reptile, and he may be a little odd, but this Gator is one I’ll keep.