I Think I’ll Call Him ‘Freckles’

A pied beauty cruising a local pond

Bands of color help newly-hatched and young alligators hide themselves from predators. As they grow, the patterns and colors remain visible, although they begin to fade; asked to name the color of an adult alligator, most people suggest gray, black, or brown.

The alligators I see cruising our ponds and bayous or sunning on their banks tend toward a solid gray, so it was quite a surprise when this freckle-faced fellow surfaced at the Brazoria Wildlife Refuge. Over the course of three weeks, I watched him take on several challengers in what I assume were territorial squabbles; by the time I took this photo, he seemed to be the ruler of his pond.

He was by any measure the most beautiful — and unusual — alligator I’ve encountered. While alligators weren’t a part of Gerard Manley Hopkins’s world, I’m sure he would have recognized him as one of the ‘pied beauties’ celebrated in his poem.

Pied Beauty
Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

 

Comments always are welcome. As always, you can click on the image for greater size and detail.

Stars on the Water

Brazos River backwaters flowing into a culvert along Cow Creek Road ~ Brazoria County

It’s rare for sights along a Texas country road to evoke memories of Louisiana dancehalls, the simple pleasures of Atchafalaya nights, or Rodney Crowell’s perfect lyrics, but these ‘stars’ did just that. Unfortunately, my favorite Angelle’s Whiskey River Landing is closed, but music still flows ‘down da bayou,’ and the dancers still sparkle.

Down in Louisiana, bayous by and by
A pirogue pole or your natural soul
Keeps you tied to a tree high tide
Beer joint lights come on
And then the crowd starts rollin’ in ~
Pretty soon you got stars on the water
Feels just like stars on the water
You got stars on the water when it rains…

 

(Click arrow to play; click here for full lyrics)

 

Comments always are welcome.

Here’s Looking at You, Kid

American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) ~ Brazoria Wildlife Refuge
(Click image for greater detail)

When winter temperatures rise, so do American alligators: up and out of the muddy warmth that helps to keep them comfortable during the winter, and onto the bayou banks for a little mid-day sunshine. Still somewhat sluggish and still covered with a coating of sandy mud, this mostly-submerged gator rose into view so stealthily he failed to break his own reflection.

It’s hard to read an alligator’s expression, but I fancy he was as surprised to find me standing on the bank as I was to see him in the shallow water. We pondered one another briefly before he sank beneath the water’s surface: out of sight, but certainly not out of mind.

 

Comments always are welcome..

Flying The Alligator Flag

Alligator flag, or powdery thalia (Thalia dealbata)

Rain lilies rejoice in occasional dowsings, but other plants prefer to live in a damp, or even flooded, environment. Powdery thalia is such a plant.

As its name suggests, it lives comfortably alongside the alligator in bayous and backwaters. If you see this flag flying, it’s best to keep a sharp eye for one of its usual companions.

Even before flowering, its three to six foot bloom stalk isn’t hard to spot. And once the blossoms appear, their messy splendor and vibrant color shine in a world often overwhelmed by shades of green.

Best of all, the flowers don’t bite.

 

Comments always are welcome.