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Articles Lodging on the Santa Fe River, Alachua County, Florida


Santa Fe River Animal Observations
May 16, 2011
            In a pewter Jefferson cup snuggles a baby wren rescued from Mama Kitty here in Gainesville. I think she’s OK. Valuing time fate gives me to examine still-live wild creatures, the cup nestles between my legs as I write.
            The illustrious Mama Kitty, aka Streaker, now returns to the house of the Santa Fe River with me via bird cage. Familiar with her kitten home, finished with kitten rearing herself, she relishes being top cat again in our family of three cats. Only she rides in her bird cage with My Girl and me to the other house.
            Manatees surprise us, again finding their mating grounds along the Suwannee River Water Management District preserved lands across from my river house. When the boiled peanut lady pauses her speed boat on the way to selling at the Ichetucknee confluence, she points: “Whole pod of ‘em,” and carefully lifts her speed again.
            From then on we’re all at the bank exclaiming. Jane’s there on her dock’s upper deck admonishing a father for standing on the bank of one of the manatees. “It’s a Federal Law; they’re protected,” she screeches, as the young father banters back: “I’d find another place to eat to get away from you if I was a manatee.”
            Nine of those gentle mammals glide, dip, blow, caress from afternoon to nightfall, under the half-moon light, and into the morning while we spy. Their mating ritual involves long periods of caressing, as we see their would-be hands open to touch the back and belly of one another. They rise from the depths to "kiss" snouts and take a breath.  Surely these creatures show affection.
            I look forward to the little one(s) rubbing my legs as they did at the confluence after the last mating season. Mama manatee hovered nearby, trusting as the babe, as her calf darted between her and me, equally safe in those baptismal waters of the Ichetucknee.
            I’m reading beside the river when it lands on my page. I’ve looked up to observe the whispy clouds in the clear blue May sky. Covering at least half a paragraph, a peacock blue dragon fly sits inhalating through its bulbous abdomen. Those telescoping round eyes rotate in all directions. I study the intricacy of those lacy wings. His color reminds me of the actual peacock who flew into Frank’s yard all those years ago.
            Life begins and ends. “They’re using them for a nest,” the crutched old feller on his dock opposite the beach at the Ichetucknee calls to us. We’ve spotted piles of chips, half felled trees the girth of my thigh, downed saplings on our side of the river. “Beavers,” he explains. I laugh that one of the highlights of my life I was swimming behind a beaver upstream when he defecated. Not only man kills these wild guys, as we saw one bloated, smelling, floating upside down inside the Park near the headsprings.   
            In the evening, just when dusk creates mysterious images in the dim moonlight, I emerge from the Ichetucknee after my last swim of the day. Upstream through the gray light I hear first, then detect visually, a deer splashing from the Suwannee County side onto our Columbia County side of that pristine stream dividing us. Not only one, but another follows, those dear deer…if you’re not growing soft, new vegetation, that is.
            My wren baby has relaxed in the cup, the size of a nest. What does she eat? Will Mama execute her as soon as I put her outside? I can only observe.

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