Friday, March 25, 2011

crocs and clocks

Someone once told me -- most likely one of those English literature types -- that Robert Frost was the great rural poet.

Frost did go on and on about roads not taken, mending fallen walls, swinging birches.  You know the stuff.

I suspect we all know this bit of bucolic reverie.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

Well, I live in the country.  We have horses.  But very few woods.  And certainly no frozen lake.

We do have a laguna -- that was starting to look more like a pasture than a lake until the town fathers breached the dunes and swept all of the surface-clinging vegetation out into the ocean.

I have written about our Sisyphean battle with the water hyacinth and water cabbage in flowers in the mud.  Last year, we cleared out a large portion of the inlet in front of my garden.

It looked nice.  New birds came to hunt.  Fish started showing up.  And our little crocodile, Alfonso, could get up on the bank to sun himself.

But times change.  We knew that battling the hyacinth and cabbage would be an ongoing fight -- and the fighting is in rounds.  During the winter, they both made a good comeback, as you can see.  Mainly the cabbage.

Mexico is not a place to wait for someone else to do something for you.  If it needs doing, you need to do it yourself.

On Monday, I grabbed the grappling hook we used to pull the vegetation out of the laguna last year and headed down to the shore to take on the water cabbage -- the lime green plants.

But I am not an idiot.  I know there is a crocodile in those waters.  He was not on the bank.  And I could not see his telltale snout and eyes floating like some toppled Frostian birch. 

So, I felt smug.  It is far easier to get close to the edge of the water to toss the grappling hook.  Better angle.  Better distance.

I had been dredging the living cabbage corpses on shore for about 45 minutes when disaster struck.  Nope.  I still have both of my legs and arms.  But almost as bad.

The grappling hook embedded itself in a tangle of water lilies.  I thought a couple of good tugs would free it.

They did.  But they freed the rope from the hook.  And the hook remained stuck in the laguna.

And this is where I start looking like an idiot.  I know there is a steep drop-off at the edge of the inlet.  And the floor of the laguna is Louisiana mud deep.  One step and you sink up over your knees.

But the hook was only a few feet out.  I almost went out on my own.  Fortunately, I had enough good sense remaining to call my landlady.

She stopped by and talked to our neighbor who has another grappling hook.  With less than ten throws, he had ours on shore.

But when he started throwing, I saw a familiar sight.  A pointed head attached to an armored body.  The crocodile had been in the water no more than ten feet from where I was harvesting cabbage.

Now, let's stop here for one moment.  You have heard me talk like a proud father when the topic of Alfonso comes up.  He was a small, timid crocodile.

But when I returned from Yucatan in November, he appeared to be gone.  In his place, was a much larger crocodile.  At least, seven feet -- if not more.  And with a far more aggressive nature.

There are several theories about the sudden appearance of this big boy.  The most popular is that Lumpy (the new crocodile) either killed Alfonso or scared him away.

I am the dissenter.  My guess is there is no new crocodile -- other than in a Freudian sense.  I suspect Alfonso went through puberty -- and he has now come into his own.

Either way, it was a bit unnerving to realize, my little crocodile was stalking me as a gordito gringo snack.

But I am not one to be deterred.  I drove to Manzanillo.  Bought a length of sturdy nylon rope, and returned to my task of pulling out the cabbage.
When I started, there was no crocodile to be seen.  But within three tosses, there he was.  Just past the cabbage field.

Then he swam closer and closer until he was within range of the hook. And never once did he flinch when it splashed in the water near his head.

His presence did not bother me too much.  I will confess, though, I was not at the water's edge.  I was standing on the malecon -- a good six feet above the water on a steep bank.

I did not finish my task -- and not because of the crocodile.  A much smaller foe drove me away.

I either piled the cabbage on an ant's nest or I brought an ant nest out of the water on the cabbage. 

I felt something on my legs.  It would be an exaggeration to say they were covered, but at least 40 ants were running around angrily.  And they were everywhere on the cabbage.

With only a few ant bites appended to my war record, I retreated.

But I decided that was enough rural life for the day.  Robert Frost and his little horse could stop by their frozen lake as long as they liked.  They didn't have to contend with tropical wildlife.

And tonight I will probably be dreaming that I am Captain James Hook hearing the sound of that blasted ticking crocodile.


teresa freeburn said...

my thoughts exactly-little alfonso grew up. you can call him, alfonso the lumpy one. perhaps he has fond memories of the gringo who helped clean out his habitat last year and just came out to say hello.

were those fire ants? i know how much their bites hurt.

good for you for starting the cleaning project. hopefully others will come out to help like they did last year.

Felipe Zapata said...

At times I really wonder about you. First the ziplining, and now this. And this is worse. Leave the freaking lagoon and its flesh-eating inhabitant in peace. Are you out of your mind?

Now on to another subject:

If it needs doing, you need to do it yourself. Or hire someone to do it.

Juan said...

If it weren't because your life was on the line, I'd say this post is hilarious. It's like taken out of the script of a sitcom, and a really good one. Jokes apart, you should really be careful. Shouldn't the beast be taken somewhere else now that it has become a real threat to the public?

Steve Cotton said...

The public is safe -- if they stay on the malecon. There are crocs throughout the laguna; moving him would be futile. I just need to be a little more cautious. Yesterday I did not leave the malecon while "harvesting" my cabbage crop.

Steve Cotton said...

I need something to replace my past life. I am not new to dealing with reptiles.

Steve Cotton said...

I don't know what type of ants they are, but I was probably lucky not to be bitten -- by the ants or the croc.

Trinidad said...

I couldn't help but laugh at your "gordito gringo snack" comment. I agree with Juan "If it weren't because your life was on the line, I'd say this post is hilarious."

As for the ants, when I was a little girl I remember playing out in the garden and all of a sudden having a feeling of dread. An army of ants covered my legs and a few were already up to my chest. To say the least it was a traumatizing event that I have not forgotten to this day and those were only little tiny black ants.

Steve Cotton said...

For what it is worth, I thought my croc prowl was amusing when it happened. This is a great place to experience nature in its rawest form.

LeslieLimon said...

I don't care much for crocodiles, but I do love that you named him, Alfonso. (Hubby is an Alfonso, as is my youngest son, Jack.) Even with such a wonderful name, this post is as close to a crocodile that I want to get. :)

Steve Cotton said...

When you come to visit, I will set up a special viewing. I just went out to the laguna. He is just waiting at the bank for anyone silly enough to visit at night.