Mason County News
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Wednesday, August 4, 2010 • Posted August 4, 2010

No one lives in deer country very long without hitting one, or seven, with their vehicle. A few years after my wife and I were married, she came home one evening almost in tears, and managed to tell me she had hit a deer.

I said, "How bad is it?"

She sniffed a little and said, "I think I killed it."

I said, "No, not the deer! The car! How bad is the car damaged?"

The famous line from ‘Cool Hand Luke’ came to mind – ‘What we have here is a failure to communicate.’

I thought of that line again as I was reading a story about a South African couple who were sailing recently near Robben Island, off the coast of Africa near Cape Town, and had a little run it with a Southern Right Whale. Specifically, the whale tried to sink their boat. Or maybe he tried to jump over the boat and undershot a little. Or maybe he just wanted a free ride. We may never know, as the whale is unavailable for comment.

That’s got to be a scary thing, having a 40-ton whale come up out of the water and land on your boat. It broke the metal mast and did some other damage, but the boaters, Ralph Mothes and Paloma Werner, were not hurt, and even managed to sail back to Table Bay Harbor. What struck me was what Paloma told a reporter later. She said, "The whale might have gotten a scratch and a bump on its head, but it surfaced again, so we don’t think it was harmed."

This struck me as strange, this woman considering how the whale had come out of the event. If the boaters had been from Texas they would have hit the local whale bait shop and been back out there in half an hour, with AR-15s and harpoons.

But that wasn’t the only strange human/animal encounter of late. Another occurred in Larkspur, Colorado, because Ben Story left a peanut butter sandwich in his Toyota. About 3 a.m. the Storys heard the car horn blaring, and went outside to find that the car had rolled about fifty yards down a hill and crashed into some trees. But it wasn’t empty. There was a bear in it.

This bear had smelled the sandwich and pawed around on the car, finally managing to get a back door open. When he climbed inside the door shut behind him so, following rule number one of Bear Protocol When Locked Inside a Toyota, he commenced to totally destroy the inside of the car. Local law enforcement was called, and spent two hours figuring out how to get the bear out of the car. I guess you don’t just open the door and stand aside.

So Ben Story, who is seventeen years old, learned a valuable lesson, namely – peanut butter is bad for you. But at least Ben learned a lesson. I’m not sure I can say the same for Dirk Willms, of Sanford, Florida.

Dirk is 44 years old, and he lives in Florida, so he should know it’s a good idea to leave alligators alone, especially after heavy drinking. But when Dirk saw a four-foot gator crossing the road one night near Sanford recently, he decided to catch it. He had had quite a bit to drink (Dirk, not the alligator), and his reflexes were probably not at optimum performance levels. When he grabbed the gator it whipped around and bit him on the leg. Which doesn’t really surprise me, but then, I don’t live in Florida.

So Dirk let go, and the gator crawled into some bushes, which would have been the end of the story, except that Dirk is apparently dumber than a Broward County voter. He went into the bushes after the gator, grabbed it again, and got bit again. He did finally manage to catch the critter, and took it home.

But someone reported the incident to the local law enforcement folks, and Dirk soon got a visit from Florida Wildlife Commission Officer Naomii Tye, who proceeded to write Dirk a ticket for being the biggest bozo currently alive. Plus it’s illegal to capture an alligator.

And then, while Naomii was writing out the ticket, Dirk commented that he probably should not have cut off the gator’s tail and left it in the road. He also mentioned that he had caught several other gators, and had never been bitten before. If Dirk spends the rest of his life in jail, it will probably be for his own good.

It seems likely there’s a moral here somewhere, about peanut butter sandwiches, or sailing, or drinking, or something, but it really doesn’t matter. If someone is dumb enough to follow an angry alligator into the woods at night, morals won’t do him any good. Besides, even if I could come up with a good moral, and tried to impart it, I’m sure I would find that what we have here is a failure to communicate . . .

Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who has never chased an alligator into anything, ever. And there’s another verse to that. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or

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