The Daughter of Man had a majority of the story set in Florida and as such it was essential for me to spend some time down in the Sunshine State. Florida, at that time was completely alien to me as I had never been outside of Canada and knew very little about what I was getting in to. The events of my novel were set in late spring and early summer so I, the Canadian tourist, chose to visit Florida from May to September.
When I arrived in Orlando, it was evening and the heat had already started to taper out for the day. At least that is what the Scott Bakula lookalike who was my ride to Gainesville claimed. I did not entirely believe him as the heat and humidity of the Orlando evening was like nothing I had ever felt before. If it was actually hotter in the day, oh boy had I bit off more than I could chew. Luckily he had air conditioning in the car as we drove north to Gainesville. During the drive, I was getting excited every time I saw a palm tree. I mean I had never seen one before and when we reached our destination the first thing I did was hug a palm tree. The bark was rougher than I had expected and I luckily got over my palm tree obsession fairly quickly.
I was staying with a friend of mine named Amanda and she was excited to have her Canadian friend for the summer. She wanted to know what I wanted to do first and I was very quick to state that I wanted to see an alligator. She thought it over for a moment and decided that she knew the perfect spot to see a gator or two. Of course she was curious as to why I choose an alligator as my first destination. The answer was pretty simple as I planned to kill a few folks in my novel with alligators and if I wanted those scenes to feel real I had better have at least seen one.
We headed out to a swamp just outside of the city where there was a walkway that went over the water and gave people a spot to observe. The spring had been more rainy than normal that year and thus the water levels were rather high and the initial part of the walkway was submerged just a little. It was easy to jump over and we did as many other people did and made our way out to the observation area. After a few moments, Amanda got excited as she pointed out my first alligator. At first I really didn’t see anything but I looked harder and then I made out a pair of small round bumps sticking out of the murky water. I stared at them and soon realized that they were eyes and a major disappointment as I wanted to see the whole deal not just a pair of eyes.
Underwhelmed by the experience, we headed back towards the car but before we reached the submerged part of the walkway we noticed that something was happening. There was a crowd of people on the walkway that for some reason were gathering before the flooded portion. We soon saw the reason as a large alligator had pulled itself up onto the bank and was blocking the submerged part of the walkway. I was absolutely thrilled as I could finally see an alligator up close and in all of its scaly glory. It was easily between six and seven feet in length and I started to watch it completely fascinated while everyone else watched it more in annoyance. Once I was finished studying the alligator, I walked straight up to it and firmly told it to shoo and it did just that making a splash as it returned to the swamp.
Amanda and the others were looking at me like I was completely crazy which I did not get right away. I was from Nova Scotia where the wildlife was pretty well harmless and most definitely more scared of you than you were of them. I applied this same theory to the alligator and according to Amanda got lucky. She made it clear to me that people lose limbs doing that sort of thing. I was a naïve pale-skinned Canadian in Florida and perhaps it was my own ignorance that intimidated the alligator or perhaps it was holding out for darker meat.
There are many other stories from my time in Florida but for now this is the end of ‘Candace versus the Alligator.’ If you want more alligator action, please feel free to check out ‘The Daughter of Man’ to see what I have done with our snappy not so little friends.