Be careful what you ask for

Randy Riley - Contributing columnist

It’s good for people to have goals and aspirations. It’s good to volunteer for a cause that inspires us.

It is also important to be careful when deciding on our goals. Sometimes we get what we ask for.

Years ago, I was part of a medical mission team that traveled deep into the jungle of the Amazon. Our goal was to provide medical treatment to as many people as possible. The natives we saw suffered from a multitude of diseases that plague villagers in tropical rain forests around the globe.

We worked hot, long hours. Every day we established clinics in remote villages. Every day we treated hundreds of patients. It was hard work. We stayed extremely busy working in incredibly hot, humid conditions. The lines of native villagers seemed to never end.

The only day we didn’t work that year was on Easter Sunday. That was going to be our day to unwind, relax and experience the incredible wonder that is the Amazon jungle.

That Easter morning, after personal worship and prayer, we began our day by fishing for piranha in the waters that edge up to the land. We maneuvered our boat between trees that form an area of blackwater, flooded jungle called the igapo. We caught several large piranhas that we later pan-fried and ate. They were delicious.

After our piranha lunch, we took a long, guided jungle hike. Within minutes of going ashore, we were covered with mud and sweat.

I can’t say it was a pleasant hike, but it was highly educational. It seemed that everything in the jungle was determined to poison us, scrape off some skin or harm us in one way or another.

As the sun fell on that special Easter day, we boarded a small, metal boat to go in search of an animal that makes the Amazon unique and somewhat frightening – caiman.

Caiman are closely related to the Florida alligator or African crocodile. They can range in size from just a few feet in length to over 12 feet long. Our guide for the evening hunt was named Bigode.

Bigode had been with us the entire week. He was an excellent guide. He knew the jungle, the rivers and streams like we know our own streets and sidewalks. His knowledge of the animals and plants that make the Amazon such a biodiverse region seemed to be unlimited. Bigode was an amazing person and a funny guy.

That night, Bigode held a spotlight in his right hand while keeping his left hand free to catch caimans. The spotlight would make their eyes shine as the caiman floated in the marshy water near the rivers edge.

The driver of the boat would slowly approach the caiman and Bigode would quickly grab the caiman just behind the reptile’s head. Once he controlled the reptile, he would secure it and let the boatful of medical volunteers touch it. It was exciting.

We had captured and released several small caimans. We slowly and quietly approached the last one of the night. With a spotlight in his right hand, Bigode grabbed for the last caiman with his left hand. He missed.

Instead of controlling the reptile by the neck and pulling it out of the water, Bigode had grabbed it just in front of the hips. The caiman was wildly thrashing. It was uncontrolled. It bit Bigode on the shoulder. It let go and continued thrashing. Bigode did not let go.

I was sitting immediately behind Bigode. The boat suddenly got very loud. People were shouting. Without thinking, I yelled at Bigode that I would help. I shouted, “Hand it to me!”

Honestly, I meant that I would take the spotlight. He handed me the caiman.

For some reason, I must have channeled The Crocodile Hunter. My left hand went beneath the caiman and grabbed him firmly under his jaw. My right hand slid over his back to hold him against my left arm. I had the three-foot long reptile secured and he quit thrashing.

My first response, when I realized what I was holding, was, “What the hell am I doing?” I realized that night, just like I’ve thought many times since then, you always have to be careful what you ask for.

Let’s translate this into politics. The Ohio governor’s race is heating up. Both candidates are making claims that contradict the other. Someone is lying. Who are you supposed to believe?

We are expected to make an informed choice, but the information we’re getting is full of lies. How can we choose? Who is lying? Who knows? Regardless, as in every election, we are expected to select one of these candidates to represent us as the next governor of Ohio.

We need to be very careful. Study the candidates. Make a careful choice. Be careful who you vote for to represent you in Columbus. Don’t be swayed by false rhetoric and outright lies.

You don’t want to end up with a lap full of crocodile.

Randy Riley is a former Mayor of Wilmington and a local resident of more than 40 years.

Randy Riley

Contributing columnist