Friday, July 25, 2008

THE ORANGE GROVE (circa 1981)

When I was young, my dad's dad owned a large citrus grove in central Florida near Moss Bluff. My brothers and I stayed at the grove quite often in the summertime. At the beginning of every trip to the grove we would go down to the big lake and flip over the boats and my grandad would shoot the venomous water moccasins (this seems futile because we would then swim in a moccasin infested lake right afterward). There were always large bullfrogs under the boats as well. I would wait until the shooting was done and then try to catch some of the frogs that were fleeing to the lake. The amount of wildlife at the grove was incredible. There were alligators, lizards, frogs, salamanders, opossums, armadillos, various birds, turtles, butterflies, raccoons, squirrels, and SNAKES. All my reptile collecting was "catch and release". This was mostly because we didn't know how to care for the snakes or lizards properly and their health would decline. Letting them go was easy because there were so many others to catch. I found so many different species of snakes that I don't remember them all. Even Indigo Snakes were somewhat common back then. One reptile that my grandad did keep for a while was a baby alligator. He insisted that I hold the thing. He tried to hand the gator to me. It had it's mouth open (we didn't know to tape it shut) and I jerked my hands away just as my grandad was letting go of the neck (I was supposed to grab it's neck). The little gator whipped around and latched on to my grandad's thumb. They say that even small alligators have a powerful bite and I think that is true, judging by all of the yelling and swearing from my grandad. I got brave and held the gator a while later. I thought it was really cool. The grove was a wildlife paradise. We always had a good time and we got to bring home a trunk full of the most delicious oranges available.