You could’ve fried eggs on the pavement—which made it a typical July day in south Georgia. We had made a special side trip on our vacation to see the Okefenokee swamp that straddles the Georgia-Florida line.

Having walked over the grounds of the park and peered at the totally motionless, sleeping alligators, we were now seated in the open pavilion waiting for the scheduled 2:30 talk by the naturalist-in-residence.

In all honesty I expected the “naturalist” to be a young college student type with a memorized message about the swamp’s animals.

To our delight the young man who appeared turned out to be a very knowledgeable student naturalist with a mind of his own.

He opened his talk by explaining, “Well, you all came here to see the alligators. Now you’ve seen ’em. What did they do for you? Nothing.

“People come here from all over the country. They rush into the park and say, ‘Show us the alligators!’

“At least the alligators are smarter than people. Some of you drove hundreds of miles to see them but they won’t even open their eyes to see you.

“Well, you’ve seen ’em—the ugliest, laziest creature God ever created. If you watch long enough (about ten minutes I estimate) you may see one of ’em take a breath.

“You came to see alligators but I came to talk about snakes. So if you want to leave now you can. It doesn’t make a whole lot of difference to me, although you ought to know about snakes because snakes, unlike people, do mostly good.”

His role as serpent’s advocate suited his personality. “I try to be as obnoxious as possible,” he admitted. “I was a Jew for one whole day last week—we had a group here from Germany.”

Our host continued to demythologize snakes. He pointed out that while people claim to have actually seen ...

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