When I arrived home this evening I went outside and prepared to open the gate into the back yard for Cueball to go out and pee, eat grass, and bark at the neighbor’s dogs, as is his wont every evening. As I bent down to open the bottom latch I spotted this charming little dear:
I adore Tortoises.* My mother has two as pets which she got at least forty years ago before it was illegal to import them. In fact here’s how to date them, we named the first one she got George, after Georgie Best the soccer player. The soccer player is long since dead. Georgina (as she was renamed once we found out she was female) is still going strong. The other one is called Mrs. T. after, of course, you know who.
You can imagine my delight then when I moved over here and discovered that they roam wild. As my home backs on to a swamp I see them quite often, although usually hiding in the undergrowth during the heat of the day and only coming out in the evening to forage. One of their favorite places to feed is under the bird feeders, where there is an endless supply of sprouting birdseed to graze on. I have found that they particularly enjoy sunflower seed sprouts. It was no surprise then to find this one on the patio, no doubt having been feasting under the feeders out there. I gently opened the gate and steered Cueball away from the tortoise and let him go and do his thing. After admiring the tortoise for a while I moved it into the adjoining flower bed to make sure that Cueball’s clodhopping feet didn’t do it any damage. It of course closed itself up into a box as soon as I touched it but it wasn’t long before it wandered off into the undergrowth of the Canna and Daylily bed, no doubt looking for some tasty slugs to snack on.
Occasionally during a summer evening one will be out in the open and one of the cats will come across it. There is nothing like the look on a cat’s face when it notices that there appears to be a rock walking across the lawn. They will approach said rock and tentatively touch it with a paw only to discover that the walking rock has turned back into a stationary rock, and that the legs and head have suddenly disappeared. This confuses the cat. So they will again touch the rock with a tentative paw and wait. The rock remains stationary. Eventually the cat will become bored and wander off. Inevitably, shortly thereafter, the tortoise will come out of its box and again begin to wander across the lawn. The cat, astounded by this, will again bound over to the tortoise and paw it. The tortoise will withdraw its head and legs and snap shut and the whole process repeats itself. It can go on for hours. Many times I will intervene, and while the cat is watching the rock I will walk over and remove it to a safer place in one of the flower beds, the cat of course will look at me as if to say “Did you see that rock walking? Cause I did honest Mom! And no I haven’t been at the nip”. It is one of the delights of living on the edge of a swamp here in Eastern North Carolina that such charming creatures are commonplace in my landscape.
* (I am not going to get into an argument about the name, it is a Carolina Box Tortoise, it is not a turtle, it is also not a “land turtle” there is no such reptile and I do not care what Wikipedia or any other source says, and I do not care what they are more closely related to, I will also argue with any professor you wish me to argue with. You can accuse me of species snobbery but to call them turtles is a form of laziness. It is like calling a Duck a Pigeon. In my mind if I am a tortoise then call me a damn tortoise, I visibly cringe when someone goes the turtle route, and I will say through gritted teeth “it is a TORTOISE, not a turtle” end rant.)