Love It, Fear It

A Brit flourishes by studying Houston

Alarms blared at TPWD as the SWAT team jumped out from behind their lab tables, slid down the poles and leaped into the Parkmobile. "There's a hibernating alligator right by a lake!" they screamed. "Contact National Geographic!"

Actually, the response was a bit more subdued. The gator, says TPWD Captain Fred Churchill, "was down there sunning and trying to enjoy a nice cozy spot that he's found, until people started throwing food and other stuff down at him and messing with him. And since then he's left the area."

I guess he found out who rules the roost in Lake Conroe, huh? It's man, baby -- and don't invade his turf. You'll find yourself dealing with some tough hombres: "On Sunday," Churchill says, "there were guys walking around drinking beer, hollering, 'Kill him. I'll kill him for you.' Why kill the alligator? He's not bothering anybody."

Sure, but a fierce hibernating alligator might suddenly defy eons of evolution, rouse from his months-long torpor and rampage through an innocent condo village, right? "When he's six feet down under a storm gate and can't climb out, there's not much to worry about," Churchill says.

Tell that to the April Sound Country Club. Sheila Farquer, general manager of the condo association, says residents continue to live in fear. Kind of. "I still have some people who drive around and look in all the storm-sewer inlets to make sure there's not another one," she says. "Because I think in a way they kind of liked having the alligator."

Next week on Wild Planet: Gerbils escape from Timmy's bedroom!

Pro-Life Baby Killers

If it's Wednesday, anti-abortion protesters in Waco must be out there working hard to raise money for...Planned Parenthood.

Waco's Planned Parenthood chapter is probably the state's most active in using the "Pledge-a-Protester" campaign that occasionally pops up around the country. Just like you can sponsor someone in a walk-a-thon or fun run, the Waco Planned Parenthood chapter lets you pledge a certain amount of money per protester who shows up on a Wednesday, which is when the abortions get done. Or the innocent infants are murdered, depending on your point of view.

"We get something between $600 and $800 a month," says spokeswoman Trudy Woodson. "It's been very successful." (Houston's chapter uses the gimmick only occasionally, spokeswoman Terri Larson says.)

The Waco group posts a sign each Wednesday letting protesters know just how much they've helped. Then they take it down. "It would be destroyed if we left it out all the time," Woodson says.

Ann Scheidler, executive director of the Pro-Life Action League, says the pledge campaigns won't stop any protester. "We have no idea whether it brings them any donations or not, but it does not affect whether pro-lifers pray, counsel or protest" outside the clinics, she says. "It's simply a gimmick to make pro-lifers afraid to protest. We are not afraid."

And the coffers of the Waco Planned Parenthood are thankful for that.

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