Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Turtles In The Wilderness

A few days ago Patrick and the boys found a tiny turtle on the steps leading out to our patio. It was on it's back, legs wiggling, trying to right itself. The boys took it upon themselves to "rescue" it and put it in our bushes.

Normally, I'm a big fan of letting nature handle itself. I figure that animals and animal babies have been existing pretty well for a long time without my interference and that generally they know what they're doing without my help. (I know! This is so at odds with my control freak nature...) Now, if the animal is obviously injured but wouldn't be able to easily harm us (I'm talking frogs and birds here, not coyotes or raccoons ) or if it's in immediate danger--i.e. a tiny turtle on our back step and in danger of being squished by the next person out the door--then I might give the okay for intervention of some kind. So when they told me they'd put the turtle in the bushes, I thought that was fine.

On Sunday morning I was taking Tilly out for her morning constitutional (thank goodness this is not a Tilly story--she did everything she was supposed to and nothing she wasn't--surprise!!) when she picked up her front paw and stood at attention. She pointed, y'all! Maybe my mutt is part pointer... I followed her gaze and saw what at first glance was a rock. But! Sooo not a rock!! There was a turtle--and a fairly good sized one-- in my backyard. Now I'm not talking Galapagos Tortoise size, but you know, for a turtle in my back yard it was pretty big. I'd say his shell was probably 10 inches long.

Well, after Tilly did her business, we went back inside and I ran up the stairs calling to wake the children, "THERE'S A GIANT TURTLE IN OUR BACK YARD!! HURRY!! COME SEE!! WAAAAAAKKKE UUUUUPPP!!" You have never seen boys bound out of bed quicker than James and Sean. They ran outside with me and we all oohed and ahhhed and speculated about what kind of turtle it was and where it had come from. (After some help from our friend Mr. Google, we discovered that it is a box turtle, very common here in Indiana and probably came from either the tree line or the pond/lake in the bajillionaire neighborhood behind us.) Mary quickly joined us and we spent the next hour or so watching the turtle not move. It was very exciting.

Poptarts are a necessity when turtle watching.

Eventually, we had to go in and get ready for church, and the turtle made his way into our next door neighbor's front yard. When we returned from church, the turtle was gone. He did reappear on our driveway about dinner time. Some of the neighborhood kids (against my advice) took the turtle across the neighborhood to a pond. (What could I say? They weren't my kids. I told them that he was just fine on his own, but one little girl looked at me, picked up the turtle and said her mom said it was okay to relocate it. Ooookay then. I let it go.)

So yesterday evening Mary and I were on the patio when she shrieked "TURTLE!!" Usually this is the voice she reserves for ants, spiders and bees so I thought I had misheard her. But when I walked over to her, I saw what she was looking at. He was very cute. ( I don't know the gender. I don't even want to know how to find out, but turtles never look like females to me, so henceforth they shall all bestowed with a masculine pronoun.) He was very tiny. And while he was not a sea turtle, all I could think of was the little turtle in Finding Nemo and I kept wanting to talk to him in my best surfer dude voice and say "Fin! Noggin! DUUUUDE!!"

The children were again summoned to come and see. Then they gathered up neighborhood kids to come see. At one point there were probably 7 or 8 kids clustered around this tiny little guy. When I admonished them to watch but not interfere with his journey, they did well for awhile, until the same little girl picked him up and decided he needed to be relocated to "where his mother is." I am assuming she meant the big turtle that she had previously moved to the neighborhood pond. I thought about explaining that the turtle was probably fine on his own and that we don't know if the big turtle was even female, let alone the mother, but then I just decided to let it go. Whatever.

So there was much fuss and ado amongst the children about who was going to the pond, who would hold the turtle, etc. I sat back down to my book and glass of wine to let them work it out.
My kids weren't allowed to go anyway, because the younger three had gone on the previous trip without asking permission and when we called for them we didn't know where they were. They weren't happy with me, but as I explained to them: "TOUGH LUCK! You know the rules. You need permission to go across the neighborhood. If you don't have it, you don't go. You should have asked last time. Your dad and I didn't know where you were. So now you don't get to go this time." Yes, I am the meanest mother who ever lived. Don't believe me? Ask my kids.

We were sitting on the patio while the neighborhood kids traipsed off with the turtle and we were talking about the turtles, the wrens building a nest in our wren house, the mockingbird living next door, the crawdads down in the ditch and the occasional deer track we find in the yard.

"Mom," Mary said. "I'm sure glad we live in the wilderness now so we can see all these animals!"

I don't think we live in the wilderness, what with our house and electricity and Internet and all, but sometimes I'm fairly certain that we live in a zoo and I'm the head zookeeper!!

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