When talented sculptor Patrick Gracewood published a post about crocodiles a few days ago, I was inspired to write about my recollections about crocodiles.
My first memory of crocodiles was in 1960 when we were ready to leave Java for my mother’s native land, The Netherlands. Indonesia’s spiraling inflation triggered the rupiah’s devaluation thus forcing my parents to invest their available cash in material goods. Their challenge was in finding goods that were easy to transport and not subject to stiff import duties. Even though I was only five years old, and my sisters eight and ten, we were dripping in solid gold bracelets, necklaces and rings as we boarded the Garuda airplane. Jewelry that was worn was not subject to duty fees. My mother also selected high-quality, compact Balinese sculptures and paintings plus two crocodile purses and one large crocodile suitcase. The concept of conservation and the term “politically correct” had not been invented yet. For my parents, it was a matter of survival.
It was fun to wear all the jewelry, but they quickly became a nuisance and their novelty wore off almost immediately. Of all the goods my parents bought, I was most intrigued with the crocodile luggage.
In all likelihood, the crocodile the Indonesians used was the Saltwater Crocodile, (Crocodylus porosus), the largest of all living reptiles. Never again in my life did I ever see a crocodile suitcase that was as large, with ridges as high, and color as deep as the suitcase we owned for six years. Mostly, I think that is a good thing.
Last year, we visited the Cuando (Chobe) River in Botswana along the Namibian border. We arrived in time to see the elephants bathing in the river at sunset. It was easy to get caught up in observing the elephants’ social behavior in their tightly knit social groups. All our camera lenses zoomed out to the max, hoping to catch the antics of the baby elephants, still learning how to use their trunks. It wasn’t until our son gasped “Waaaa!” that we realized that two large crocodiles were right under our nose. I was more than a little unnerved to see these menacing creatures up close.
Over the next couple of days, we saw about a dozen Nile Crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus). All were camouflaged artfully in their surroundings, like this pair catching the last rays of the sunset:
Having trouble seeing them? Here’s is a close-up of one; the other is out of frame, further up the riverbank on the right.
The only time I was actively concerned about my safety was when Poniso, our guide, pulled the bow of the boat up on the bank and then killed the engine.
Without wanting to sound an alarm, I gave a tiny squeal of concern. “Oh, don’t worry. He’s not coming after us. Look how full his belly is. He’s just had a full meal.”, Poniso rationalized. What if the engine won’t start up? What if he’s thinking about a little dessert? I can read it on his face.
He still looks pretty hungry to me.
Never have I been so relieved to hear an engine start up. I don’t mind a little adventure, but I don’t believe in pressing my luck.
Speaking of pressing one’s luck. We saw a young adult on another boat with his legs dangling over the edge of the boat and his bare feet ankle-deep in the water. Brrrr! This is an apt time to cite the delightful little Lewis Caroll poem that Patrick Gracewood found:
How doth the little crocodile
Improve his shining tail,
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every golden scale!
How cheerfully he seems to grin,
How neatly spread his claws,
And welcome little fishes in
With gently smiling jaws!
Thank you Patrick for inspiring me to write this post. Please pop over to his blog to read his post about some beautiful crocodile sculptures.
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