Losing a hand isn't a life-threatening injury. Retrieving the hand, though, was a life-ending event for the alligator.
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Somebody needs to say a few kind words about the alligator.
I'm talking about a specific alligator, the one that had its belly slit open this week in order to retrieve the severed hand of an airboat captain who was apparently trying to feed it.
I guess I should feel sorry for Wallace Weatherholt, the Everglades City guy who must have been in considerable pain following the sudden removal of his hand by an alligator.
But I find my sympathies leaning far more heavily to the alligator, whom I've decided to name Kevin.
We rarely care about animals unless we give them names and ascribe human qualities to them. So I have decided to posthumously name this particular alligator Kevin.
Alligators possess tiny brains and strong prehistoric impulses, much like 14-year-old boys, who often don't get the kind of sympathy they deserve from the rest of us, either.
Anyway, Kevin was doing what he was supposed to be doing on Tuesday afternoon in the swampy wilderness of Southwest Florida when Weatherholt boated by with six tourists looking for a little authentic Florida entertainment.
"Clearly, some of these guys don't play by the rules," said Jorge Pino, spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The state wildlife commission suspects that Weatherholt, like some other airboat operators, feed alligators as a way to ensure they get close enough to the boat to thrill the paying customers. Feeding alligators is a misdemeanor in Florida because it makes those creatures associate humans with food, and removes their natural inclination to ignore people.
"What happens is that the boat captains either toss marshmallows in the water or actually feed them by hand," Pino said. "We mount undercover investigations to combat this issue."
Pino said it will take some time to interview people and decide whether Weatherholt will be charged with a crime.
But justice, or the lack it, was handled considerably quicker for Kevin, who didn't have a brain big enough to advise him to get as far away from the scene of his last meal as possible.
"We responded quickly," Pino said. "The prudent thing to do is to save the man's hand."
Losing a hand isn't a life-threatening injury. Retrieving the hand, though, was a life-ending event for Kevin, who probably assumed that the hand was just part of the treat being offered.
And who knows if reattaching the man's hand is even going to work? Wallace "Wally" Weatherholt is recovering in a central Florida hospital, according to a posting on the website of his employer, Captain Doug's Everglades Tours.
"Please remember Wally in your thoughts and prayers," the site said. "Captain Doug's will be opening an account at a Collier County bank where friends, acquaintances and supporters can make donations for the benefit of the Weatherholt family to help them through this traumatic time."
As for Kevin, well, I guess he just gets this column.
The Opinion section is produced by the Editorial Department to foster discussion about key issues. The Editorial Board represents the institutional voice of the Star Tribune and operates independently of the newsroom.