The following is an account of my experience at the Everglades and the days prior to the
"Beware of the Everglades!" vehemently warns my friend, Juliette. "Whatever
you do, run and do not look back! Vultures, snakes, and worst of all, ten foot alligators are waiting
to attack their unsuspecting prey. Lynette, that includes you! Never stick your hand into the water
and never walk alone. Never make contact with the wildlife, especially the snapping ten foot alligators.
Those are the same alligators that will pull you into the water and bite your leg off, like in that
movie Lake Placid. So remember Lynette, avoid the Everglades at all costs, unless you want to come back
with a missing limb."
Only having been to the Everglades once before, many, many moons ago, I imagine
the possibilities of the danger I could encounter. What if I fall into a patch of Saw grass or what if a
mother alligator attempts to feed me to her babies that are hungrily waiting around the corner? The days
leading up to the first class not only brought excitement, but deep down inside, there was something else
growing. At first, I was unsure of what it was. In the days prior to our first Everglades visit, there
was only one word that could be associated with what was growing inside of me: It. Whatever it was, It
continued to grow and eat away at my insides. The suspense and tension that lingered fed It. As the days
continued on, friends and family also continued to feed It necessary nutrients to help It grow. I must
admit that I was partly to blame, in that I allowed It to be fed and by participating in the feeding
rituals. It was born on the night of September 9, 2004, the night before my first class meeting.
The birth of It coincided with a dream that I had the same night. The dream
started on a long desolate road, taking me farther and farther away from civilization. I slowly watched
the building behind me shrink in size. Before I knew it, the road that I traveled on was bordered by
murky water on both sides and the only company that I had was that of oversized birds hovering in the
horizon. For a second, it seemed as though I had gone back in time. As I continued along the road,
I came across an alligator, like the ones that Juliette had warned me about. To make matters worse there
was a multicolored snake, about as large as the alligator, hooked onto its tail. I was so horrified at
the sight that I nearly ran off into the road. "Ahhhhh" I screamed! I caught myself just in time. I
sped past the two as fast as I could. After driving for what seemed like eternity I came across a rest
stop and stopped hoping to find some help. I pulled in to the parking lot, opened my door and as I was
about to step out I was nearly attacked by alligators. Just a minute before, the parking lot seemed
empty and out of nowhere an alligator infestation emerged. I did not close my door in time. Within
seconds I was being dragged out of my car by several baby alligators. Despite kicking and
screaming, they showed no mercy. They pulled and pulled and before I knew it, I was face to face
with the largest alligator I have ever seen. Its jaws slowly opened as it lunged towards me.
"Noooooo" I hollered, as I jumped up from my nightmare. I convinced myself that it was just a
nightmare. It was with this dream that I realized what It was. It was fear, the fear of the
Everglades, and most of all, of the large, snapping alligators. My fear lingered through the
night but I awoke the next morning, ready to fight it head on.
On September 10, 2004, my journey to University Park began. The
combination of excitement and fear returned. I was enlightened on the history of the Everglades,
much of which I did not know despite having lived in Florida nearly all my life. After taking
a short lunch break, my time to face my fear was right around the corner. Coopertown Airboat
Rides was our next destination. At first sight, the place reminded me of a small, rural town
store. I must admit I was at ease until I walked past the picnic table area. My heart rate
began to accelerate at once. Right in front of me was the terror from my dream the night
before: a ten foot alligator. An alligator like the ones I had been warned about, or so
it seemed. It did not move, so I assumed it was asleep and escaped to the airboat while
I still could. I took my first ride on an airboat, into the Everglades, so understandably
I was a little scared. I said to myself, "there are at least 20 other people on this airboat,
so what are my chances of getting eaten first?" I held on tightly and enjoyed the ride. I
must admit that the scenery was breathtaking. It was unlike any that I have seen up close
or in person. There was not an alligator in sight, just a few birds and some mosquito fish.
So I was able to calm down a little. The baby named fear did not seem as big or important
out in the open "river of grass". Compared to the crazy streets of Miami, I actually felt
safe. I even felt safe enough to go into the water. Yes, I did it and it was great! The
tour took us into deeper waters. Once again I was faced with an alligator, which happened
to approach my side of the boat. A vision of the alligator jumping in to the airboat
appeared in my head, so I scooted away from the edge of the airboat. To my surprise, it
swam right past us. We approached another, and yet another. They all did the same thing.
They stopped in the middle of the water for a few seconds and swam out of the way. I was
amazed. The ride ended without any major scares.
On land, a smaller alligator was passed around. I briefly touched it.
I figured now would be the time to test the rumors. Would the alligator snap somebody's
finger off? The alligator barely moved while being passed around. I figured, I might as
well try holding the alligator too. The gator was passed to me. At that moment, a beam
of sunlight began to shine onto me. I think I even heard opera music in the background.
In all of my five minutes of holding the alligator, not a thing happened. Wow! In the
short time while out in the Everglades, I realized that there was no real reason for me
to fear those creatures. While it is obvious that they are not harmless creatures, I
realized that I should not completely fear them either. I made it out with all my limbs
intact, so I guess the trip wasn't so bad. It was with this trip that the death of "It"