When this morning first began, I did not have a plan for the day at all. [This space is provided as a pause, to allow you time to pull yourself up from the floor after hearing that I did not have a plan for the day – you all know how I am.] The weather forecast boasted a bright and sunny day with a mild breeze, which are perfect conditions to help dry things up after more rain this past weekend. Even so, I knew it would be too wet and soggy through most of the day for me to manage any mowing or gardening, so I thought I might just do some reading. After all, I had been quite busy over the previous few days, so it just seemed right to take a day off to relax.
After having my coffee over a couple of telephone conversations with two of my sisters in Nebraska, I went to the back porch to check on Francesca and Buddy, our orphaned squirrels. They have been outdoors on the back porch in the big cage for about three weeks now, so this last Friday, FD and I decided it was time to open the little hatch door and let them start investigating the porch and beyond – if they chose to. As a result, Saturday and Sunday proved to be quite entertaining. Francesca seemed to be the most adventurous – taking all sorts of risks and being quite a show off. Buddy kept to the top of the cage, hidden in the leafy branches I put up there for cover. He finally did venture out on the deck railings and even managed to nibble some rose leaves and honeysuckle blossoms, but all of those places and plants were in “safe” areas. Francesca, on the other hand, had ventured into the grass and out in my flowerbeds – a little too far away for my comfort. But as always, instinct led her to quickly leap back or scurry to cover and safe nooks next to the house whenever a sudden noise or movement spooked her. So, with this a new part of our morning routine, FD opened the hatch door just before sitting down for his breakfast at 7:00. Soon, the two youngsters were out of their cage and scampering around on the back porch when he left for work.
When I checked on them around 7:30, I found them having a wrestling match back inside their cage. But just thirty minutes later, I could not find either of them. Finally, I found Buddy hidden between the honeysuckle and the sun shade. I thought Francesca was probably cleverly hidden somewhere nearby too, but after about ten minutes of searching I began to worry. After checking the porch, roof, and flower beds that run all around the perimeter of our home, I decided to check the trees on the south side of the house. Perhaps Francesca had followed Punkin, our older, orphaned juvenile squirrel, who had also been on the back porch earlier for her morning pecan(s). At this point, I donned my muck boots and started walking around the trees grunting, “Ur ur ur ur ur” and softly calling “FranCEEEESCA!!! Where ARRRRRE YOOOOOOU?” Becoming a little distraught, and in my mind going over all of the places she might have ventured to, I finally sat down at the old picnic table. Looking out further in the yard and pasture, I wondered if she might have ventured to other nearby places but, no, the usual first-go outings for young squirrels were these hackberry and elm trees I was sitting under.
And then, I spotted a large lump out in the yard just to the east. How odd. It looked like a big rabbit to me but, surely, it was not. I laughed. My eyesight is not the clearest anymore, as I suffer with dry eyes and allergies a good bit. But it did look like a rabbit to me, only it was awfully still. And if it was a dead rabbit, a fox or coyote or, at the very least, a vulture – would have confiscated it by now! Nothing dead ever lasts very long here. Curious, I walked towards the mound in the grass. Squish, squish, squish went my boots in the soggy grass. Whatever it was, it was still not moving. I looked to the south of the unidentified object, and saw a strange trail left in the grass. Whatever this was, it had drug itself across the dewy grasses leaving a tell-tale path. As I got closer, I realized that what I had discovered was a very big turtle and, by the looks of the shell, it appeared to be a very old one too. I had no clue what kind it was. It had the face of a snapping turtle, but there were no vicious ridges running along its back and the beak was somewhat smooth. This was definitely a photograph worthy subject, so back to the house I trudged to fetch my camera.
After getting a few photographs, I followed the path the old codger had taken which led me to the pasture gate leading out to the street. But surely this turtle had not come from town! A sharp turn in the grassy trail told me it came from the west and followed our south fence line along the alley. From there, I walked all the way back to my new friend. In a slow but purposeful manner, it had made a little progress towards the picnic table where my quest began. As it trudged along, I stayed a distance behind and to the rear so I would not deter it from proceeding on its journey. Meanwhile, I spoke squirrel, “Ur ur ur ur ur”, just in case Francesca might be playing nearby. I doubted I would have the patience to follow this turtle very far along its journey, but I was curious about where it was going.
S L O W L Y, my old friend made it to the slope and then picked up a little momentum as it headed down the hill and into the canyon. I took a few more photographs, and then decided to look around for Daisy. I walked back into the woods, but was immediately attacked by masses of mosquitoes. I zipped my hooded jacket, but my ill-fitted garment was no match for the buzzing army I faced. My left hand held the camera while the right swatted and smacked at my ears and face and my exposed left hand. These annoying bastards were everywhere!
Determined, I trudged back deeper into the jungle of growth where I had seen Daisy resting the week before. Through poison ivy and tacky spider webs I pushed forth into the cool dark of the woodlands. Finally, the mosquito population seemed to dwindle. I noticed the recent rains had washed a lot of decomposing matter and wood along the canyon floor, leaving small lines and piles where the water receded. Sandy, red dirt, mixed with black loamy soil, created a kind of sand art on the woodland floor. Fragrance from blossoms of a woodland shrub that I had often observed Daisy eating summer berries from, mingled with the musky scent of damp earth. In this cool darkness of the woodland tree canopy, I felt alive. I was deep in the oxygen tank of the woodlands… And I felt entirely immersed in the pureness of it!
A sudden “SMACK!!!” brought me back to reality – I was still battling mosquitoes and was beginning to get hot in my hoodie, despite the cool shade. Maybe it was a hot flash, I do not know, but I was suddenly mighty uncomfortable. Obviously, my clothing selection was much too heavy for the warm and humid temperatures and, along with these stinging insects buzzing about my ears and alighting on my face, I had had enough! Squish, suck, squish, suck, I slopped along the electric buggy trail with my boots being sucked into the dense muck. As I hurried out of the humid and insect ridden depths of the canyon, I met the old turtle heading to the west. I imagined he would travel into part of the pecan orchard and on to the old river channel. Maybe he would even venture as far as the river, just beyond. I thanked him for allowing me a few photographs, and then headed towards the slope. And then, there was Daisy deer at the feeder!
After spending a little time with Daisy, I finally made my way back inside to the cool of the house to research the turtle I had found earlier. From my photos and research, it appeared I had stumbled across a very old female Common Snapping Turtle. Long gone were the spiky ridges running the length of her shell. Worn smooth was the point of her beak. Even her tail had lost its ridge of sharp, jagged scales. I have seen quite a few snapping turtles in my day, and it was quite plain that this old girl had lost her snap a long time ago.
With all my missing squirrel, turtle discovery, and Daisy visit going on, I did not manage to read my book at all today. Instead, I took more worrisome walks to the trees and all around the house, in search of Francesca. Finally, I decided to just come in and write about the day’s adventures. Maybe that would take my mind off of Francesca’s disappearance for a time. Then, with a heavy heart and my writing almost complete, I decided to go out for a quick break at 3:00 and give poor Buddy some company. Imagine my delight when I stepped out on the porch and saw TWO squirrel tails… brother and sister wrestling in their cage!
There was a time today when I felt I had lost my snap too! Like the old, weathered snapping turtle, I was feeling smooth worn out, trudging along, defeated. But now, here was Francesca, as if she had never been gone, roughhousing with her brother. I knew this was a sign that it was time for me to “snap” out of the fear and worry I had allowed to take over my mind. It was time to celebrate and live in the moment of happiness! So, I went to fetch a few pecans for everyone in celebration of Francesca’s return!
Later in the evening, while chatting with my neighbor, I learned that he had actually seen the snapping turtle while walking his dog this morning. Apparently the turtle made it to our gate, but was unable to get under it. My neighbor lifted the hefty girl up and over, reaching down as low as he could to allow her to land with a slight thud on the other side. He felt she was better off on our property than walking the streets. I asked if she snapped at him and thrashed to get free. He said she was quite compliant and accepted his help without any fight. Maybe she had not lost her snap at all, I wondered, but had simply lived long enough to learn when she was exposed to real danger, and to hold her snap in reserve until the threat was dire…
© 2015 Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…