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May 02, 2013

When Gators Attack

Wally_Gator_baje_pl_1"Get behind me, everybody! Don't run. Stay together!"

I sacrificed a precious nanosecond to glance backward, to make sure my family was safe behind my feeble one-man barrier. Then I squared up to the charging 20-foot alligator and braced for impact.

Did you know that when alligators charge on land, they can run as fast as race horses over short distances? Think about that while you watch the Kentucky Derby this weekend. Those nags got nothing on Florida's reptilian menace. A healthy female gator would burst out of the gate and dash to the front, stopping only for a quick equine snack on the back stretch. She'd win by 40 lengths (and not only because the horses would bolt the other way; although they would do that, of course).

So, we're outside in the yard watching the tropical birds do their thing at sunset, when all of a sudden, here comes this monster gator out of the retaining pond. All teeth and scales and sharp front claws and lashing tail and crocodilian fury. I lined my family up behind me, grabbed the nearest make-shift weapon (a telescoping golf ball retriever) and whacked that gator into sub ... mission. It ... I ...

No. That's not how it went. It was a bear. And it was in Alaska. And it wasn't me and my family, it was Toby Burke, AKA the Baddest Dad On the Planet. Mr. Burke (to me, he'll always be Mr. Burke) fought off a crazed bear with a telescope and his bare hands to protect his wife and three kids in the wilds of Alaska. He FOUGHT A BEAR WITH HIS BARE HANDS and won.

I'd like to think I'd have that kind of presence of mind if a super-crazed mama gator came at us. I'd like to think that I would be the kind of guy who'd calmly direct my family to line up behind me, don't worry, don't run. I'll protect you from the murderous miniature dinosaur that clearly would like to rip out all of our livers.

I'd like to think that I could be that guy. For one day, Mr. Burke was that guy. Whoever else he might be -- and of course, we don't know -- he was that guy.

Toby Burke, people. Toby. Burke.

Oh, and 3-foot gator in our back yard retaining pond? You're not fooling me with that docile, non-threatening swimming, minding-your-own-gator-business thing you have going on every day.

If you want some of this, you know where to find me.


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