“Ugh!” Bess cried out. “What are all those crawly things in there?”
“Crocodile food,” Danny said and handed her a, tin can. “Pick them up and drop them in this.”
George laughed. “You asked the wrong person, Danny. Bess hates that kind of thing.”
“You bet I do,” Bess said, pulling her knees up to her chin.
Nancy took the can and she and George scooped up the small marine creatures. Some of them were no longer than a half inch.
Nancy remarked, “A crocodile would have to eat a million of these to get even half a meal.”
“That would do for a snack,” Danny agreed. Then he made sure the outboard motor was not dogged.
Fortunately the green mass had come up in one big lump, and he was able to back the skiff away from the key. George threw the leaves and roots far out and once more the boat headed for Crocodile Island. The water was very shallow, and sand dunes stuck up here and there. Once in a while the skiff ran through an area where the water was dark green in color.
“These channels run quite deep,” Danny explained. “Larger craft can travel only in these, whereas a flat-bottomed boat like ours can go anywhere on the bay.”
A few minutes later he pointed to their left, where series of tall, stout poles protruded from the water. Many had small cottages on top.
“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Bess stated. “Are they summer homes?”
Danny nodded. “Right. They’re weekend retreats. The owners like to get away from the city. Out here there are a lot of interesting things to see, and many birds. But not noise except from the boat motors.”
“What about the poles with nothing on top?” George asked.
“The houses they supported were blown away in hurricanes,” Danny explained.
Bess shivered. “I’d run at the first sign of a breeze if I lived in one of them.”
Danny laughed. “I’m sure people don’t stay and wait for the storm.”
An hour later he reached another key. It was surrounded by a line of mangroves. As they drew closer, the girls saw stakes driven into the water, forming a fence. It stretched as far as they could see. Here and there warning signs were posted:
no trespassing under penalty of the law
“So this is Crocodile Island,” George remarked.
Just then Nancy noticed two bright spots in the water behind the fence. “What are those?” she asked.
“Crocodile eyes,” Danny told her. “You see, these reptiles can stay completely under water except for their eyes, which are raised high in their heads. Watch!” He picked up the can of little marine creatures and tossed them toward the crocodile. Its great jaws rose and took in the food. Then the reptile swam away lazily.
Bess, who had drawn her feet back on deck, said, “I see now why the owners put up this fence. They left enough water between it and the island so the crocodiles can enjoy themselves.”
Danny told her that this was the first time he had ever seen one of the creatures in this spot “Usually they’re kept in pits and guarded carefully,” he added.
“Where’s the entrance to the island?” Nancy questioned.
“On the far side of the key. You girls are lucky. Today is a visiting day.”
There were several boats with tourists waiting to see Crocodile Island. A boardwalk ran from a small dock up through mangrove trees to a partially open area. Here, among the mangrove trees, were shallow pits fenced in with five-foot concrete walls.
Fresh sea water flowed into them through pipes. There was an elevated area in each pit so the reptiles could stay either in or out of the water.
A small Irish terrier ran around, barking loudly at the visitors.
“His name is E-fee,” Danny explained. “I know because I’ve been here before.”
“E-fee?” Bess asked. “That’s a strange name.”
“It’s Seminole for ‘dog,'” Danny said. “He has six toes on one front paw and likes to be the center of attention. He’s always around on visiting days.” The boy petted the little animal and E-fee licked his fingers.