Saturday, July 20, 2013
If you look it up in Wikipedia, it very well might have a photograph of Steve Cotton in his role as godfather of the crocodiles. Watching the birthing and growing process has been one of the highlights of my year. Even better than selling my house on the first day of its listing.
Take a look at that group photograph. The babies were less than 48 hours old at the time. Each would fit comfortably in an adult hand. As long as the hand did not mind having bits of flesh chomped off.
That was Monday. Mama Croc had done an excellent job of keeping them hidden for a day. And, even when they ventured out on the water cabbage to catch bugs and sun themselves, they were generally out of sight. I needed my binoculars to spot them.
I had not taken into account the acuity of young eyes. By the next morning, groups of children were gathering and gawking. Some were foolhardy enough to get close to the water until they were warned that the mother was lurking beneath the cabbage.
And by the next day, the viewing platform had been transformed into a shooting blind. Boys showed up with slingshots and a laddish eye for mayhem. By the time I got out there, the water was clouded with volleys of pomegranates, mangoes, and rocks. Any projectile to maim.
I didn't see any little corpses. On the other hand, I didn't see any crocodiles at all. This was the scene. The pond is always pretty in the summer. But it was now devoid of the little critters that had thrilled me earlier in the week.
Let me stop here for a moment. I am not certain why I took the attack so personally. The crocodiles are not my property. And it is not as if I am morally opposed to killing all life. My record in exterminating leaf-cutting ants, termites, and scorpions undoubted has my face plastered on a wanted poster in the Bug Post Office.
But I was bothered. And I reminded myself of my Aunt Bessie who refused to picnic at a park because "that nice young man drowned there." I thought it was a recent accident. It turned out that he had drowned 40 years before.
When I went out to the pond on Thursday, I knew how she felt. After failing to see any movement on two trips, I decided I simply did not want to go back to that section of the laguna.
I know that nature has a cruel side. Baby birds fall out of trees. Cats kill squirrels. And boys kill things that move. If every baby crocodile survived, my garden would be filled with luggage on the hoof pleading to be fed.
By Friday, the coming and going of boys waned. For good reason, I thought. I decided to take one last look. And, to my surprise, I saw this.
Hidden in the shadows of the afternoon were the remnant of the clan. Reduced in number, but noticeably larger than they were five days earlier.
Nature may be cruel. But it is also reslient.
Mama Croc is at the edge of the water cabbage in the dark guarding her young as I write this. We will see just how long she can hold back the ravages of time.
I certainly haven't found a way to do it.