Not only did Clay Higdon have to fend off hungry Florida alligators, the mid August temperature in Southern Florida steadily beat on him as well. One Wednesday afternoon in August, 47 year old Clay Higdon was making his normal drive from his home in Naples, FL to a business meeting in a suburb of Miami when about 5:30 pm a Deer bolted across his driving lane. As Clay swerved to miss the Deer that just ran across Tamiami Trail in front of him, he lost control of his Infinity and ended up about 60 feet off the highway and quickly sinking into the soggy Florida marsh that lined the highway. Tamiami Trail is known statewide as a very dangerous road but Clay has made this trip a hundred times before. The problem this afternoon was that a heavy fog had blanketed the everglades and it was getting dark quickly to boot.
Normally, this wouldn’t be that bad of a scenario because there’s plenty of passing traffic to stop and lend a helping hand. But as luck, or fate would have it, this was not the case. The heavy fog and darkness in addition to Clay ending up so far off the highway made seeing his car almost impossible by any passing vehicle. This would also not be that big of a deal because you could still tromp through the waist high swamp to get yourself up to the road, but Clay’s car had sunk deep enough to keep the doors from being able to open. Again, not that bad but his seat-belt had incurred such an impact that he was not able to free himself from the safety harness. Clay quickly realized that this wasn’t an ideal situation in the making.
With his cell phone getting tossed to the opposite side of the back seat, reaching it while still trapped in his seat-belt was out of the question. Clay gathers his composure and excepts the fact that he’s not going anywhere anytime soon without the help of someone else. Spending time as a Boy Scout growing up he gained some important knowledge that would certainly come in handy in this uneasy predicament. He new that the only way to get through this was to stay calm, keep his mind from wandering, and be patient. With temperatures near 100 degrees this time of year, a night time or early morning rescue was ideal. And if the heat and humidity wasn’t bad enough, Clay couldn’t help but think of all the snakes and alligators he’s seen during his routine trips across Tamiami Trail.
” Getting through the first night was definitely the hardest part of this whole thing ” said Clay as he continued to describe his story in great detail. He said that he finally fell asleep once the adrenaline and the shock wore off. I awoke as the sun started beating down on me about 10am, he said. I got thirsty and had to sip on the black swampy water to stay hydrated, and to my surprise it wasn’t that bad he chuckled.
Now late for his meeting, his phone began to ring over and over again. You don’t know how much a phone can annoy you until you have to listen to one ring for days without being able to answer it, he said. Stuck in the sitting position with a tightly secured seat-belt around your waist for a long period of time will certainly cause cramping and numbness, as it did. That entire second day Clay bounced ideas around that would aid in his escape from the cab of his car. Digging through his center console he came across a set of plastic silverware he recently acquired from his last fast food pit stop. The ” spork ” was of no use, but the plastic knife might be his salvation. All I could think to do is try to cut this seat-belt off, so i started the process that would eventually save me.
In a nut shell, for another day and a half I slowly was able to cut my way through enough of the seat-belt to free myself from the grasp it’s had on me for 4 days. Meanwhile, and like he expected, there was all kinds of search parties traveling the same path from his home to where his meeting was supposed to take place in Miami. Starving and legs aching, Clay described the moment that he finally cut through the last piece of seat-belt as the absolute best moment of his life. Life was now only about 60 feet away and called Tamiami Trail. The waist deep mud made the short distance tough, but the now resurgence of adrenaline was more forceful than the mud of the Everglades. Within 30 seconds of stepping foot on the paved highway he was able to flag down a passer by and use their cell phone.
It was over, and it was not a dream said Clay! With only minor bumps and bruises, and hungry, Clay Higdon survived 4 days in an alligator infested swamp and lived to tell about it. Clay then took the next 2 weeks off to take a much needed vacation after reuniting with his family. His friends and family love sharing his inspirational story of patience and determination with anyone that will listen, and they do! I will never look at life the same says Clay. Cherish everyday to the fullest because you never know what will jump out in front of you next!
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