Turtles: A Shell of a Story

Turtle shells 09-23-2015These guys must have come out of the bowels of the attic or they might have been set aside for making rattles. All I know is that there was usually a turtle or two around through most of my childhood.

When I started school, Dad and Mother sold the trailer we used to follow Dad from job site to job site and rented a house at 2531 Bloomfield Road. (It’s not there anymore). The house was surrounded by fields and had a swing-up garage door that never closed too tightly, hence the house frequently hosted mice and bugs. Traps kept the former at bay, and we let a couple of turtles roam the basement for the latter.

When we moved in, there was a washing machine in the basement. Not too much later, the landlord confiscated the washer and left behind an old fashioned ringer washer for Mother. “I cried so much that your dad went out and bought me a new washing machine,” she said a few months back.

The water from a shower Dad rigged up and the wash water drained into a floor drain, something that worked adequately until one day when it started backing up. Finally, the landlord had to call a plumber. He wasn’t happy to find out that the clog was caused by an errant turtle who had fallen into the uncovered hole. After that, a No Turtle Rule was instituted.

Then, there was Sam and Ella

Pet turtleNo pet store or county fair would have been complete without a chance to buy or win one of these small turtles. We didn’t think about the dangers of salmonella back then.

I even had a painted turtle that came from either our Florida trip or the fair.

Bring on the wild art

Turtle and Dog 1966I always hated it when an editor would say, “Bring me back some wild art.” That meant is was a slow news day and they needed a feature photo that could run CLO (Cutlines Only). I was lousy at shooting those kinds of pictures.

If I had to, though, I’d throw good taste, scruples and pride aside and bring back a cringe-worthy photo like this.

Turtles on the Beach

Sunset Jupiter Island 08-30-2013_5484Friend Anne and I embarked on our first bike ride of the summer. She needed to use up a gift card, so she got a new set of handlebar grips and a new (super bright) taillight. We had a bunch of time to kill before temps fell below the melting point, so we drove to the north end of Jupiter Island where we hung out at the beach.

Here’s an example of how critical timing is. When we pulled up, the golden setting sun lit up this sea grass like it was on fire. In the two or three minutes it took me to secure my bike and get to the right angle, the sun dipped below the dune line and the magic leaked out of the photo. This is why you can’t hesitate. You have to shoot it as soon as you can see it. Conditions can change in seconds.

Close, but not quite

Sunset Jupiter Island 08-30-2013_5494This gives you an idea of how the sun hit the grass, but it’s not exactly what I wanted.

Where’s the guy with the camera?

Sunset Jupiter Island 08-30-2013_55636I was just about to pull out when Anne heard someone say, “Where’s the guy with the camera? The turtles are hatching.” She had never seen that, so she rushed down, leaving me to lock up the bikes.

This was the last of the batch. A little girl named him “Flippy,” because he flipped over every time he hit a deep footprint or rut on his way from the nest to the ocean. When he got to the water’s edge, he got smacked around by a couple of waves. After the water receded, he sat with his belly on the wet sand, waving his flippers in a swimming motion for all he was worth.

This was my last look at him before another wave snatched him up. I like the way he looks so tiny.

The orange bathing suit

Sunset Jupiter Island 08-30-2013_5541

Anne, who supplements her freelance income by dog sitting, noticed the dog right away. My eye was drawn to the orange suit because it reminded me of a day on that same beach when I was enjoying the shade with a bunch of elderly (OK, MY age) women. A young woman in an even more abbreviated orange suit sauntered by.

I turned to my companions and said, “I sure wish I had a bike jersey made out of that material because it obviously catches the eye of everybody on the beach. The only comfort we oldtimers can take is the knowledge that girl is NEVER gonna look that good again. She hit her peak two minutes ago and it’s all downhill from here.”

The women didn’t applaud my observation, but I got some satisfied nods.

Equal time

Sunset Jupiter Island 08-30-2013_5553When we got to the top of the dune, I was getting the Sexist Pig evil eye from Anne. I showed her this frame to prove that I leave no age group unrecorded.

This is Anne’s sunset

Sunset Jupiter Island 08-30-2013_5558

She insisted on going down an east-west side street right at sunset. I’m glad I followed her. They don’t get much better than this.

As always, you can click on the photos to make them larger.


Snakes Alive!

Horseshoe Lake 07-10-2013_4625I have a number of places I take visitors and friends for a ramble. A week or so ago, I took Friend Shari and her mother, LaFern, on a ride that paused at Horseshoe Lake near Olive Branch, Ill.

The little park and spillway at the south end of the lake is almost always pretty. Shari stopped to use the restroom – it’s an outhouse, but Friend Claire pronounced it acceptable on our visit last year. Shari also gave it a passing grade.

While she was otherwise occupied, LaFern and I checked out the spillway. I saw a huge fish chasing minnows as soon as I got there, but he disappeared, never to be seen again on this visit.

There were plenty of turtles, including a softshell with a neck a foot long who was snurfulling along the top of the water until he spotted us.


Snake Horseshoe Lake 07-10-2013_4616

This guy cruised by to the base of the spillway, then disappeared. His coloring and rounded head makes me believe he was harmless.

Moccasin, maybe?

Snake Horseshoe Lake 07-10-2013_4631I was less sure about this one. His body was thicker and his head was more triangular. I was ready to label him a water moccasin. Either way, I wasn’t about to dip my toe in the water.

I’m happier with turtles

Turtles Horseshoe Lake 07-10-2013_4636I was happier to see a batch of turtles looking like they were playing on a seesaw. I count at least five on this log. (You can click on the images to make them larger.)

Ernie Chiles and I rode our bikes around the lake in 2009.