The Rant 

It was with great good fortune that I got to spend Thanksgiving near Boca Grande, a beautiful island off the Florida coast. Granted, it's nowhere near the Galapagos Islands, but all the wildlife here still makes one think of the wonders of nature and man's relationship to it.

Boca Grande (also called "Gasparilla" Island, which loosely translated means light-skinned and very rich) is overrun with iguanas, which are nasty-looking lizards. They eat plant life and hang around people's homes looking really, really ugly. This problem all started with some crazy rich lady on the island who decided to raise a few of these nasty docile creatures as pets. I guess she thought they were cute. It's the same way Kevin Federline got to Malibu.

The unfortunate thing about nature is that the most vile creatures tend to breed at an alarming rate, and again I reference Kevin Federline's short two-baby marriage to Britney Spears. The iguanas of Boca Grande are also apparently going at it like rabbits, and now they are all over the island. In response, the residents voted to hire a trapper and other pest-riddance entrepreneurs to kill the iguanas in hopes of slowing their population growth. I saw one of these trapper guys in downtown Boca Grande, and I had to go talk to him. The one thing I have learned on this earth is if you get a chance to talk to a gent who chases varmints for a living, you just have to stop what you are doing and savor the moment.

Indeed, I knew we would get along as soon as I read the sign on his 10-year-old truck which advertises that he is both an animal trapper and a taxidermist. You would not think these two skills would be transferable, but this guy is a modern-day Renaissance man. I jokingly asked him if there was anything that he would not mount. He, in a clearly much rehearsed but still self-amused manner, said, "Well, I would never mount a man's wife, unless, of course, she is game!"

After that, I felt like I had to buy the guy a beer at a local haunt called the Temptation. And, if you can imagine this, the trapper-taxidermist really likes to drink. After explaining to me the events leading up to about 17 of his 25 scars, we discussed how the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF) and PETA (which I think stands for People Entirely Too Angst-y) have come to the island to fight the slaughter of innocent iguanas. The island residents and PETA differ in their approach to this. Islanders want to capture and freeze the iguanas at the cost of $20 per lizard. PETA, on the other hand, wants to capture, provide housing, union job training, and food stamps for the lizards until they can register them as Democratic voters.

This issue brings to light the classic paradox of wealthy human families. The Economic Engine who made the money to afford the beach house is usually tough and conservative. Next in the life cycle come the soft and often directionless kids who were sent to liberal schools and stand for everything their parents don't. These offspring find silly causes to demonstrate the compassion they think their parents lack. It's a case of biting the hand that feeds them -- if only they ate meat.

My conversation with the trapper continued. I asked him about various animals and how they behaved. It was like watching an Animal Channel documentary produced by Playboy. Most of his insight into animals tended to focus on their mating habits, much like the articles in People magazine.

He told me of a recent study that determined that male apes seek out the oldest female they can find to mate with. We both were confounded by this. Yet, on the bright side, it is the strongest evidence yet that modern man did not evolve from apes.

Human women are attracted to different traits in males than female apes are. Fortunately for males on Boca Grande, chief among those traits are a boat and a beach house. There is no recorded history of female gorillas being attracted to male gorillas for this reason, if you do not count Maria Shriver.

My suggestion for the islanders to rid themselves of the iguanas in short order would be to send free bus fare to some good-ole-boy hunters from my home state of Tennessee and put them up at the Gasparilla Inn for a few days. Not only would the island be lizard-free, it would soon be PETA-activist-free as well.

Ron Hart is a columnist and investor in Atlanta. He worked for Goldman Sachs and was appointed to the Tennessee Board of Regents by Lamar Alexander. His e-mail: RevRon10@aol.com.

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