I stumbled upon the Animal Planet TV show River Monsters while channel-surfing. I jumped right into a scene with a white-haired, British guy wrestling some huge, slimy thing into a tiny boat, and I thought, “Huh, what the hell is this about?” Since that fateful day, if River Monsters is on TV while I’m channel-surfing I will stop and watch. I will go so far as to yell at Jake (who is probably busy doing something important in the other room) and make him watch the show with me.
The white-haired British guy is Jeremy Wade. Wade is a biologist, extreme angler, and writer specializing in travel and natural history. He’s best known for using fishing as a means to look beneath the surface of human life in remote places, notably the Congo and the Amazon. For me, he’s best known as being a total bad ass. Think Quint in Jaws, only hotter and with a better accent.
River Monsters itself is an Animal Planet TV show that is downright creepy if you’ve ever been swimming in a river and thought, “I wonder if there’s anything hungry in here.” Then, your practical side says, “No, Sara, there aren’t monsters in rivers. There are only monsters in oceans.” That’s when a seven-foot alligator gar crushes your knee and drags you under screaming, “Screw you, practical siiiiiiiiiiide ….” That’s what happens to the nameless victims on the show, at least.
Wade usually gets the call when someone is attacked while swimming in our standing near a river, and it’s always in places you’ve never been to, and no one you know has ever been to, either, like Papua New Guinea, Brazil, and India. He goes fishing for fish you’ve never heard of … and hope never to meet. These fish have nicknames like “The Mutilator,” “Flesh Ripper,” and “Silent Assassin.” And Wade is SEEKING THEM OUT in boats that are usually too small for the things he catches. And we thought only Australians were completely nuts!
This blog entry exists because last night, Ripley was playing rough, with her big jaws wide open and snap-snap-snapping (as she is known to do), and Jake called her “our little alligator gar.” I flashed back to that episode of River Monsters, and let me tell you, the image of a ten-foot alligator gar will stay with me forever. I saw a baby shark in Charleston two years ago in water I was swimming in, and that is NOTHING compared to an alligator gar. They’re gross, oily critters that weigh from 350 to 400 pounds at full size. And of course, Wade caught one.
I would suggest watching the show. For one thing, it’s entertaining. For another, it feels like a horror movie—the way Wade says things like, “I think it’s gone under the boat!” Also, it’ll teach you that it’s never safe to swim in dark water. NEVER. When I was seventeen years old and I illegally swam into the Maumee River to paint the pillars (it’s a Perrysburg High School seniors thing), my buddy jokingly said, “Watch out for the gators.” Huh. After watching River Monsters, maybe Ted Bennion wasn’t joking after all … “Fish on!”