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Wandering Florida

The Canoe and the Alligator
By Joe Murphy
Aug 10, 2006 - 11:16:00 AM

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Summer is a time for families to get out and explore nature together.  My brother and I were blessed as youngsters with parents who turned off the television and got us out the door and into the woods.  Recently my Dad and I were talking about fun times we shared together on rivers and trails, and he reminded me of the story below.  This is his story of the canoe and the alligator in his own words:

Nancy Murphy Photos

Joey, Joseph and Robbie Murphy

When our boys were very young, my wife and I decided that they needed to grow up experiencing the great outdoors in central Florida. We purchased a weekend place on the Withlacoochee River right on the edge of the state forest. Our next purchase was a bright red 18 foot canoe, little paddles, and life vests that would fit an 18 month old and 2 1/2 year old. Our adventures on the river began.

 We spent many weekends and holidays canoeing, fishing, building fires, and exploring the area around Nobleton. Our next purchases were bicycles for the parents with children's seats on the back for the boys. When we were not on the river we were riding all over the back roads between Nobleton and Istachatta. As the boys grew older we added 20 inch bicycles so they could do their own riding.

 We spent weekends in the woods and on the river, and heard bears in the woods, the scream of a panther, saw otters, alligators, fish of all sizes, and wild turkeys. The bird life on the river was fantastic and they learned to identify many of them. Just as they had gotten old enough for their own bicycles they soon became skilled enough paddling and maneuvering the 18 foot canoe to go out on the river by themselves.

 But on one adventure, Dad was in charge of our canoe with the 2.5 HP outboard motor. We used the motor to go up stream and just drifted down. On this Saturday morning we started going upstream toward Hog Island. Suddenly a large alligator came into view sunning its self on the bank!
 I quietly cautioned the boys to withdraw their paddles while I moved the canoe closer to the creature. I placed the motor in reverse and as the canoe backed up I hit the throttle a little too hard. We accelerated backward toward the bank and hit it with a thud. Suddenly the alligator was awakened and started moving toward us! Actually he brushed past us as he disappeared into the river. The boys and their mother were in a state of shock! They all decided I needed a bit more practice with the outboard motor and canoe.   It is a story we have never forgotten!

 Col. Joseph A. Murphy, U.S. Army (Retired)

You can email Joe Murphy (or his Dad!) regarding his column at

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