By Sam Burnham
So Birdman (@GApasturedbirds) and I were laughing on Twitter the other day about a story tweeted out by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about a 13 foot alligator being removed from a Florida swimming hole. First of all gators aren't rare in Florida by any stretch. Even 13 footers aren't unheard of. Throw in the almost criminal thought of removing a native for the benefit of undocumented swimmers and the story seems even less worthy of the AJC's time and effort. Would Henry Grady or Joel Chandler Harris tweet out this story? Probably not.
But then, as if on cue, one of my other Twitter acquaintances tweeted out a story of epic proportions. Let's set the scene. The story is very much one that might be sung about around dinner tables in mead halls 1000 years from now. Instead of a hero, this story is led by one of of the most spectacular antiheroes to ever grace the world of prose. It was a tale of one of the many adventures of the amazing Florida Man.
Anyone who has spent more than an hour or two on social media can tell you that Florida Man is an extraordinary being. In his case Florida Man had just been arrested on charges from a case from last October. Now don't be too worried about the star of the story. Florida Man goes to jail at the onset of every one of his stories. It is a required element in the plot formula in a Florida Man story. Without an arrest there is no story. Besides, we all know how hard it is to go an entire week without winding up in the pokey, right?
But back to the story. Florida Man pulled up to a Wendy's drive thru near Jupiter. To clarify, Jupiter is a town on the Atlantic coast. Florida Man is not capable of interplanetary travel. Lord help us all if he ever achieves that. He places his order and pulls up to the window. The person in the window hands him his drink and then turns to complete the order. That's when Florida Man saw his opportunity and struck. He took a 3 1/2 foot alligator from somewhere inside his car and threw it through the window and into the restaurant.
Now this story goes far beyond the acute consternation that would be caused by the unscheduled appearance of a crocodilian commando in a fast food kitchen. The level of skill and logistics behind this mission is astounding. It is a shame that Patton and Rommel are not around to work together to analyze these tactics. It would make for quite the conversation. Allow me to attempt to break this down.
First, there is at present no way to know if he was wronged by the restaurant and plotted revenge or if he found the alligator and then carried out a preemptive strike. Either choice could mean a difference in the question of just how or why he came into possession of the gator. We have to ponder this ourselves. Did he seek out the gator or just happen upon it? As I mentioned before, they aren't rare in Florida but you don't just adopt one from a gator rescue in Loxahatchee.
Second, alligators aren't as mean or aggressive as you might think. They typically leave you alone if you leave them alone. But grabbing one up and tossing it in the car for a spin around town isn't exactly leaving it alone, now is it? But Florida Man is a gator whisperer from way back and he was able to subdue the gator and convince him to go along with his plot.
Then there is the window. We are talking a Wendy's drive thru, not a Chic-fil-A. A CFA drive thru window is wide enough that a customer in a car could comfortably watch, without obstruction, an Old Crow Medicine Show concert that was going on in the kitchen. A Wendy's drive thru is just large enough to fit a bag out the window if the employee hands it out turned sideways. Granted we aren't talking about the 13 footer from the AJC story but a 3 1/2 foot isn't exactly puny. It's bigger than your dog. And gators have a lot of pointy and/or sharp features that begin to wiggle if the gator has any last minute second apprehensions about a kitchen assault. Hurling one out of a car window and into that drive thru window on the first attempt took some skill. Trust me, if you miss the first time, the gator won't give you another shot.
But the most amazing part of the story is that the assault occurred in October. Florida Man wasn't captured until February. That's five months that he eluded and evaded police and wildlife officials while still carrying out his adventurous lifestyle. Think about it. A guy who chucked a gator through a Wendy's drive thru isn't going to just lay low for five months. He's still got stuff to do.
Like I said, this guy is a mastermind. They may have caught him this time but he has been caught before and as long as he doesn't wind up sitting in Ol' Sparky, he'll be caught again. Good luck, Florida Man!
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire