The Everglades National Park
FIU IDH 4007

"The Birth and the Death of it"

Lynette Wallace
IDH 4007
Fall Semester 2004

The following is an account of my experience at the Everglades and the days prior to the
1st class.

    "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" occurred.

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