Places: Everglades NP, Florida #2: Have a Steve Irwin moment
I had to reach deep into the memory file for this one, back to the sweet days in ’02 when I was busy creating projects about saving the Amazon River Dolphins from extinction and my obsession with Steve Irwin was still going strong. He was my childhood hero; anyone who wrestled crocodiles and was utterly unafraid of all things reptilian was capable of earning my complete admiration. I used to walk around the house holding those wooden slithering snakes by the tail and shouting “Blimey, he bit me!” in a horrendous Australian accent.
But my more genuine Steve Irwin moment came when I got the chance to go to an alligator farm and hold a baby alligator. (Apparently, alligator farming is legit; they ride around on John Deere tractors and plant corn with their little alligator hands. I found it all very impressive).
My brothers and I were allocated an alligator according to our size: my little brother was handed the littlest one, I was handed the medium one, and my older brother was handed the largest one. The staff made us aware that even the littlest alligator can take your finger off. Hence: The littlest one–mouth taped. The largest one–mouth taped. The medium one–no tape. I’m assuming that was either because middle children are always the best behaved, or because secretly I was holding a stunted-growth geezer alligator that had dentures (which I still don’t recommend being chomped by).
Either way, I showed no signs of being the least bit worried that I might lose a pinky finger, which probably should have been a very serious concern–I’ve heard they are a key component to good balance. Or is that your pinky toe? Regardless, I could have dropped the alligator and lost one of those as well, and then where would I be? Clearly, I’d be a pre-pubescent pinkyless person without the ability to walk on my hands or feet. And we all know how rough that journey would have been.
Anyways, spending just a brief moment in my hero’s shoes was enough to make a lasting impression on me. I may not have wrestled it, but it sure wasn’t wooden, and I bet it would have made Irwin proud. Holding that alligator tops my list of greatest childhood memories, right above climbing a giant pile of pumpkins. (I mean, when was the last time you decided to go on a hike and then crawled up a pumpkin mountain?)