That is still the primal emotion that takes over when I'm in the same neighborhood with an alligator. As a resident of Florida, I should walk in perpetual fear, considering there's a good possibility that a gator might be lurking in almost any nearby pond or wooded area. As a precaution, I try to stay in my car as much as possible.
And there are the alligators.
Official-looking signs are posted everywhere: "Alligators are present. Do not approach, feed or harass the alligators."
This policy will not be a problem, because I adhere to a strict "live and let live policy" with gators, with the emphasis on the living.
Wandering the expansive wetland trails on a recent impromptu visit, it was obvious that I would need to rely on the gators to keep their end of the deal — because, apparently, they were everywhere.
"See any gators?" I called out to a couple of returning hikers.
"Yeah, about 25 or 30," one replied.
That's about 24 (or 29, depending on your estimate) more than I needed to see. Yet, as I turned alone off the gravel path onto a grassy trail between a pond and a wading-bird marsh, I had yet to see one, prompting a mixture of disappointment and relief.
Then, I saw him: roughly a 10-foot gator stretched out along the path, either sleeping or contemplating lunch.
Have I mentioned that I was wearing pointy-toed cowboy boots? A poor choice for a getaway.
Calculations of speed and distance cluttered my math-impaired brain. How fast do gators run on land, for how long? My knees turned to butter, which is not a figure of speech. At about 20 feet, I turned and walked away, trying to look relaxed while checking over my shoulder all the way.