April Weekend
Short Story

April in the Big Cypress Swamp is a time of drought. An occasional rain will fall, but for the most part, little rain is seen. The end of May or maybe June will be the beginning of the rainy season. This results in the ponds and cypress sloughs drying up. This winter, there has been more rain then usual, but only the deepest and wettest cypress still has water in it. A few more weeks and even those will be dry. This means the Alligators will be seeking water where ever it can be found. As I just learned, that is closer to home then I ever thought.

If you read the last few weekend stories, then you know that the NPS did a prescribed burn around our camp. Already the palmettos and those pesky Java Plums are starting to grow back. As I promised the NPS, I have started hunting down those little Java Plums and giving them a squirt of Chemical Killer. As I wandered here and there near the pine trees in the picture to the right, I almost stepped on a seven foot alligator that has taken up residence under the roots of the pine tree.

  Kitchen window view
Kitchen Window View of Pine and Palmettos

Back Yard Gator
Like most good Gators this one was afraid of me and after looking me over and deciding I was too big to eat, he headed down into a hole  under a large pine tree. No one was more surprised then me to see this gator living in a Pine Island. Usually you only see them in the center of the Cypress Ponds, in wallowed out holes trying to stay wet. It would seem this hole is a place of annual visitation when the water dries up. With out the NPS burn and me needing to eliminate the Java Plums, this alligators secret hide out would still be unknown, even though it is only 50 feet from the kitchen door.

Now being curious and not afraid of a smiling face, I decided to check out the living accommodations for this gator, that was able to completely disappear from sight down that hole. I discovered that the hole runs downward several feet into the water table. So this gator has water to cool off with and shade to protect him from the sun. As I looked down there, I could only see white teeth and the edge of water in the darkness of the hole. Now not being completely stupid, I decided that I had looked long enough, and should give the back yard gator some privacy. I would think the only problem for this gator would be a source of food, but at night he may head over to the cypress pond, just a hundred feet away, for a midnight snack.

Palmetto Gator
Camp Sixpack Back Yard Gator

Gator giving me the Eye
Back Yard Gator Giving me the Evil Eye as it peeks out from under the Pine Trees Roots

I told Hoss, (one of the other Six Pack owners), that the gator was hanging around for the leftovers from his good cooking. After a meal, we usually put the leftovers out for the Raccoons. but it could be we only thought the raccoons were eating it. Come to think of it we have not seen any raccoons lately, Maybe that is what is keeping the back yard gator full and happy?

Horse Flies


Horse Fly Ride
Horse Flies Riding the Swamp Buggy Bus

  May is usually the time for horse flies in the Big Cypress Swamp, but this year they seem to have come early. As we drove to camp on the swamp buggy, these horse flies started to join us. The further we went, the more hitch hikers we seemed to pick up. I don't know what they like about hanging upside down from the canopy and riding on a buggy, but it sure seems popular with them.
Every once in a while we would hit a bump and there would be a black out as all the horse flies had to fly to get back to their resting spot. Surprisingly, the showed no interest in giving us a little bite, they only seemed interested in riding along. Fortunately, there are no NPS regulations about transporting horse flies live. That probably will come in future years.
Return to Home Page

Story by Steve - April 26, 2004