Courier-Post columnist Danny Henley went looking for trouble earlier this summer.

On a recent excursion to the Hannibal riverfront, I paused to scan the water. When the river is high, it’s not uncommon to see entire trees floating in the channel. On the day I was there, the river was far more tame than it had been earlier this spring and summer. Consequently, I only noted a branch or two sticking out of the water. At least I think they were branches.
When one sees something out in the water it’s not uncommon for their mind to misinterpret what the eyes are seeing. Case in point, a few years ago the Hannibal Fire Department was called to the riverfront on the report that someone had seen what they thought was a person being carried away by the current. It turned out to be a buoy.
Knowing full well that a person can be deceived by what they see, I didn’t think too much of what I saw floating in a lake one morning in Gulf Shores, Ala.
Following a long trip to a vacation destination most people choose to sleep late. Not me. Maybe it’s because I’m in a strange bed or still wired from the drive, but every year I find myself awake far earlier than I would be at home.
This is not necessarily a bad thing. Being an early bird has afforded me the opportunity to take some amazing sunrise photos.
Because of the Gulf Shores area’s topography I could tell the sun wouldn’t rise out of the Gulf of Mexico. Consequently I found the next best thing – a lake.
As I waited for the sun to appear, I took an assortment of photos of the lake in the early morning light. At one point I noted what appeared to be a log floating far out in the water. I snapped a few photos of the object and then turned my attention back to the sunrise.
It wasn’t until later, when I was going through my images that I realized what I’d seen wasn’t a piece of wood. Zooming in on the form the silhouette of an alligator became apparent.
Because the creature was so far away, it was little more than a speck on the image. Consequently, making a print and framing it was not an option. But it did fuel my desire to find and photograph an alligator in the wild during my week of vacation.
As I took more sunrise photos that day I noted signs warning visitors against antagonizing the ill-tempered creatures. But on subsequent trips to the lake, I never again saw anything resembling an alligator, even though I scouted out spots that I would have hung out in if I’d been an alligator.
I also visited a park in Gulf Shores that featured an elevated deck that allowed guests to look down on a waterway and grassy areas. There were signs warning against feeding the reptiles, but again I never saw a one. Considering all the liquor bottles and beer cans that littered the spot, I assumed all the gators were hung over and sleeping it off.
My last alligator hunt found me on a paved trail that wound through a heavily wooded area. At one point, nearing a pond, signs warned I was entering alligator habitat. I stood in silence for a time, hoping that I would spot one.
While I didn’t spy a gator, in the marshy area I did hear what sounded like hogs. Knowing that parts of the south are plagued by feral pigs, it hit me that instead of having to outrun a short-legged alligator, I might find myself dealing with a fleet-footed hog whose afternoon nap had been disturbed.
I tip-toed out of the area with mixed feelings. I was disappointed I hadn’t gotten an alligator photo, but happy I hadn’t taken a picture of a large boar charging at me.