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Air Boat Ride

Posted Wednesday, February 16, 2011, at 7:01 PM

On the Road in Southern Florida

I've seen them on tv, but I never dreamed I'd get to be onboard one of those airboats that glides on top of the water in the Everglades.

This photo was taken on Lake Trafford near Immokalee, Florida. Our captain was named J.D., and he seemed to know every inch of the lake and the surrounding marshes.

Though my favorite subject of the tour was the water birds--great blue herons, roseate spoonbills, bitterns, and white herons--the alligators make the most dramatic show. The captain said that their body temperatures are only 65 degrees, so they have to roast in the sun a good bit of the time. If they get too cold they're unable to eat. This fellow actually hissed at us!

We saw dozens of the creatures sunning themselves on the bank, and there were even more out in the open water. Lake Trafford is only about six feet deep at the deepest point.

Cap't J.D. said he had gotten his boat stuck the day before, and I was glad that he didn't share this story with us until we were safely docked! Since the boats can't be towed or pushed, one of the other pilots had to run his boat by him very fast to wash him out of danger.

I'm sure that this backward country girl will dream of alligators tonight...

From the warm climes of "Paradise," this is your rural roving reporter, Madeline, functioning like a duck out of water...

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These rides are always remarkable and memorable. Have a great trip and keep posting.

-- Posted by Dexterite1 on Wed, Feb 16, 2011, at 8:20 PM

You came all the way down here and didn't give me a holler?

I did a story on an Everglades frog gigger one dark night. We took off in his airboat at the speed of sound. All I could think about was what would happen if he'd hit a snag that would cause the boat to stop, but break the engine and propeller off. Did I mention that the propeller was right behind me?

The only light was one clamped to his forehead. He'd swivel around, with the light flashing off the passing saw grass like some kind of strobing disco ball. When he spotted white eyes, he'd lower his gig like a lance, spear the frog, whirl it over his head into a gunny sack and keep on going without missing a beat.

"See those red eyes? Those are gators. Frog eyes are white. Wanna see a gator close-up? I'll show you what I used to do when I was a poacher."

With that, he cut the engine, drifted up to a pair of red eyes, reached over the side and pitched a five-foot gator at my feet.

"In the old days, I'd have broken his back when I brought him in. This one is in perfect health, although a bit cranky now."

Let me tell you, it doesn't take me long to look at a gator. I suggested that two of us - me and the gator - would be happier if one of us was back in the water. I would be happier if it was the gator, but I wasn't picky.

-- Posted by ksteinhoff on Wed, Feb 16, 2011, at 7:52 PM

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Madeline DeJournett
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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at advancensc@sbcglobal.net.
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