August 16th, 1999
Be A Kid Again

by Tammy DiGristine


WOW! What a wonderful day on the water today.

Last Friday, this guy and his daughter checked into the hotel where I work. They were the son and granddaughter of a very dear friend of mine from Ohio. Well, I met the little girl and that was it. Within 3 minutes, we were out on the hotel grounds on the great lizard hunt of '99. We must have chased lizards and bugs for an hour. Next thing I know, I'm coming into work early every night, just to chase lizards and bugs.

Michelle

She's a great little girl. 10 years old and wants to be an entomologist when she grows up. I kept trying to tell her not to grow up, but I don't think she understood. Her dad has been taking her on the typical Mouse Tour of Florida... Disney, Epcot, Universal.. all of those boring places that everyone just HAS to go to. I asked and was granted permission to take her out to the river with me this morning.

At 7am, before I could even punch out, there she was waiting. We hopped into the car and headed on down the road. A stop for gas and sodies and we were at the river. Because of the shuttle launch, I couldn't get out to my favorite stomping grounds, and was rather upset. We stopped right there on the "beach" south of Parrish Park and before the guard shack.

Seems maybe I went and grew up too much myself. I guess I had forgotten all of the wonders way down there on the ground. Turns out we didn't need to go out to my stomping grounds.

Michelle is a bundle of energy. Up and down she zipped. We chased crabs and horseshoe crabs and bugs and lizards and watched minnows swimming near the shore and played with snails and caught everything we could get our hands on. It was neat being back down on that level again.

As we were leaving there for the next spot, a huge herd of manatees started breaching the water and with a nice slam of the brakes and detour back off the road, we were there on the bank watching for about 15 minutes.

Off to Scottsmoor Landing next, where the largest crab congregation I had ever seen was going on. Maybe I've seen it before, just never NOTICED. Us big people do that you know.... anyway, talk about 2 kids being in hog heaven. We had a blast over there. We sat and watched what HAD to be some kind of mating ritual. I am not certain as I have never studied the mating rituals of fiddler crabs, but I've tended enough bars to recognize the scenario anywhere. Huge congregations of males and females... males hanging out strutting their stuff, females rushing up to check them out and the ones with the biggest claws always winning. The male and female disappearing down his hole. Yup... had to be what it was. We talked about it for a while and chased some more crabs.

Then we spent a half and hour chasing the biggest yellow grasshopper she had ever seen in her WHOOOOOLE life around. Around the cove we went and wouldn't you know it.. there was half of a gallon milk container. I picked it up, put a little dirt, grass and water in it and the next 5 or 6 crabs we caught went in the bucket and we left.

By the time we reached the North Dike Road, all of the crabs were named and she somehow knew the difference between them all. Heck by halfway down the road, I knew all of their names and how to tell them apart. Mother Nature sure put on one heck of a show for us. Probably she does it every day, you just have to look through the eyes of a 10 year old to see it.

We saw sandhill cranes (Wow! They are noisy, aren't they?) Blue Herons (I can't believe they are so big. They are so beautiful!) Dolphins (Oh man! I always wanted to swim with the dolphins. . . this is the first time I ever saw one for real in my whoooooole life!) Alligators (Do they bite?) Snakes (Can we catch him pleeeeeeease? and we did) Osprey (that looks like an eagle, oh neat! he's got a fish!!!) Wood storks (What is he doing with his wing??) Frogs (Can I keep him???)... the list goes on and on. Finally we left that road and were off to Haulover.

No manatees at the manatee observation deck, but plenty of boaters who were more than happy to wave at us. I think she could have sat there all day waving back at them.

Over to the boat ramp at Haulover. I mistakenly let Claw, her favorite fiddler go and had to go through some serious muck to recapture him. Man those little things are fast! Over to the other side and then outta there.

Hit Duck Roost Cove on the way out. Neat stuff there... it was a horseshoe crab graveyard/nursery. We caught a bunch of dime sized horseshoe crabs and looked at them and walked across a thousand dead ones. Saw some tailing reds, watched a school of mullet, tried to catch minnows, laughed at a pelican and identified a few bugs after we caught them.

I was saddened when it was time to get her back. To know that in two days she will be leaving just about breaks my heart. I wonder why it is that she looked at me so funny when I told her thank you. I guess she may not ever understand. . . or maybe one day when she is all 'grown up' she may have an experience similar to this and know. I dropped her off and found myself wishing I wasn't so darn tall all of a sudden.

I'd have to say that today was one of the finest days I have ever had on the river. No rods, no pressure, no tunnel vision, no hurry. Just me getting down on the level of my friend and seeing things all over again for the first time. All of her innocence and wonderment rubbed off and for just the slightest of seconds. . .I was a kid again. Man, it was great!

When I returned her to her father at noon, he saw her first. . . "Michelle!! How on earth did you get so dirty?"
Then around the corner I came!

Suddenly it was, "Michelle! How on earth did you stay so clean!"

Yup. . . I bet another hour and we would have made mudpies. THEN he could think dirty. . . ~ Tammy DiGristine


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