Colby Farm’s Midnight Swamp Tour
The moon was just barely beginning to peek out from behind the clouds as Matt made a final headcount; the one thing he was manic about was making sure no one was left on the farm before setting out for a midnight ride into the swamp. There were only eleven people on board including Matt himself and old Jim, who was acting as captain and readying to steer them along, but that was fine for this time of year. As the weather grew even hotter, more could come. Everyone tourist liked to venture out of the city and into the wilds for an evening during their vacation, and though there were plenty of tours out there, a few still found their way into the wilds of Honfleur and onto Matt’s pontoons.
“Alright everybody,” Matt began into the battered receiver of a small public-address system wired into speakers that hung from the bright yellow canopy that covered the boat. “Welcome to Colby Farm’s Midnight Swamp Tour.”
The small crowd gave a haphazard round of applause and Matt responded with the most charming smile he could muster. The air was thick with humidity and alive with a million buzzing, bloodthirsty mosquitoes that flitted about between the passengers. It had dropped a good fifteen degrees from the heat of high noon but it was still hot, unbearably so from the passengers hailing from the north. Matt himself paid it little mind; he had long spent his summers in the heat and these days, it felt good to him.
“Does everyone have their life jacket latched?” He asked, receiving an affirmative murmur from the crowd. “There’s a can of Off! in the bin at the end of your row if you need it and if you don’t have anything on to keep the mosquitos away, I suggest you use it. They’ll drain you dry in the blink of an eye here in the swampland.” There was a soft bustle of movement as the passengers who hadn’t thought to protect themselves reached for the insect repellent, just as he had known they would. They always did; few every considered the insect life of the swamp when they came for a tour. They were only focused on one thing: Gators.
“Now let me give you an idea of what you might see out there tonight,” he went on. Jim began fiddling with the engine and after a moment or so, it growled to life. The old man went to throw off the mooring, muttering to himself about ‘crazy tourists’ as he went.
“It’s late so the birds’ll be nested for the night but we still may spot a few. Egrets and herons mostly, maybe even an ibis. There’ll be some nutria around, and you’ll recognize those right away. Kinda look like big beavers without the tail, or, like some people around here like to call them, swamp rats,” Matt went on, earning a quiet chuckle from his tour group.
“We’ll definitely see some snakes,” he added, earning a muted gasp from the few who hadn’t considered that there might be more than birds and rats in the water. “Cottonmouths, maybe a swamp snake that’s swum over this way. And of course, the alligators.”
The little group gave a short cheer. They had seen Matt’s gators, the sluggish, almost docile creatures that lived in the paddocks on the farm, and they had even peeked in at Old Bill, the gator that someone had drawn as a cartoon for the farm’s logo. But a real live wild gator? That was something entirely different.
“Now I have to ask that you keep your life jackets on, and stay in your seats,” Matt went on. Jim had returned to the front of the pontoon and it had began puttering out into the dark waters of the swamp. “We don’t need anyone falling in the water. But most importantly, absolutely keep ALL hands and arms inside the boat, and ALL times. Everybody understand?”
The crowd murmured in agreement.
“I can’t stress this enough,” Matt added. “I don’t want to see anyone leaning over, sticking their hands down to feel the water or grab a the reeds. Do you all promise to stay put and keep all of your hands where I can see them?”
The crowd again murmured an affirmative response.
“Now I want everybody to hold up their right hand and say, ‘I promise’,” Matt finished, and as they began he held up his own hand in a similar pose as the others, listening as their echoing promises tapered off to small gasps of surprise from those who hadn’t noticed the two missing fingers on his right hand.
Matt grinned. “Alright, it looks like we’re about ready. Now if you look to your right, you’ll see...”