On the negative side 8

It’s been a while since I’ve observed that Florida is a special place, and I’m concerned that you might have forgotten this, so I have to illustrate it again.

First off, some things in Florida get big. For instance, birds. Sure, there are herons and vultures throughout most of the continent, but those are about the only large bird species, and they rarely allow a close approach. Florida has numerous waders, like sandhill cranes and wood storks, and scads of brown pelicans.

On top of that, Florida has the crocodilians, primarily the American alligator, though there are a handful of American crocodiles as well. And yes, I know these aren’t confined to Florida, but they’re most prevalent and visible there, occasionally ending up in people’s swimming pools. It is possible to have a casual encounter with a lizard nearly as long as your car, without having to be out “in the wild” someplace.

Now, I’m not sure how people in other states view this, but I suspect there are more than a few who wonder how insane you have to be to live in Florida, with the chance of being eaten while playing golf, but it’s really not that much of a hazard. Alligators tend to be shy and don’t usually consider people a safe target for meals – we’re too large, and above all too fatty – so mostly it’s just a matter of paying attention when one is near a water source with sloped edges. And in places, there are warning signs to remind anyone whose mind might be wandering.

And finally, Florida has fishermen, or fisherfolk, whatever word you want to use – I’ve maintained that you cannot be a resident of Florida without owning a fishing pole (which means I was only a resident alien while living there, but hey.) People will go fishing so they can go fishing – using a casting net in shallow areas to collect small fish like finger mullet to use as bait when out on a boat going after bigger fish.

Even the birds have noticed this, so much so that they hang around and pay attention when people start mucking about on docks and at shorelines. I’ve watched herons stealing from bait buckets, including one that stalked up to an empty bucket and then looked somewhat confused when it found no fish within, checking a couple of times just to be sure and then looking off into the middle distance with a distinct “WTF?” air. It’s one thing to be a thief, but quite another to look affronted when nobody left anything for you to steal.

So when I was out fooling around with some old, grainy B&W film by a boat launch, and the local started pulling in his casting net and cursing fluently at the brazen marauding avians, I had to quickly frame the shot with the warning sign, just for a little bit of irony.

Beware of Florida