Introduction: Gene GeRue is the author of How To Find Your Ideal Country Home. He lives 'somewhere in the middle of the Ozarks'.
Morning Entertainment, Country Style
From the kitchen sink window a terrapin undulates downhill over the mulch of the back garden. It appears to be heading toward the baby lettuce. Pauses with head stretched high like a periscope--the head reminds me of Spielberg's ET. Is it a girl sniffing the air for a boyfriend, or a boy inhaling for the irresistible perfume of a girl? Lettuce spared, it changes direction and goes back up the slope to the sod. Across the sod behind the hibiscus that is pushing up new shoots. Now back down into the garden, perhaps that is where the breeze comes from, angling across through the young pepper and tomato plants to the excavation where a hydrant was installed yesterday. Threads its way between the hole and the new hose bib manifold out onto the top of the stone wall. Peers over the edge like a child looking at a dropped toy on the floor below its crib. Decides against a dive. The garden rejected, it moves along and off the end of the wall and onto the sod, goes around the corner and disappears, still searching.
One could learn a lot from a terrapin.
The three-toed box turtle, also called terrapin, known to biologists as Terrapene Carolina triunguis, has been reported to live as long as 138 years in the wild. I want to know who kept track. It is also said that an age of eighty to a hundred years is normal. Common life stoppers are vehicles and collectors. Three-toed box turtles prefer wooded areas, but are also found in lawns and pastures. In Missouri, courtship--this I have not seen, and mating, this I have photographed-- takes place from late April well into summer. Most egg-laying takes place from mid-May to early July. A female digs a three- to four-inch hole in a patch of loose soil. Three to eight elongated white eggs are laid, covered with dirt and abandoned. I have occasionally happened onto one of these nests, typically in leaf litter near an oak tree. As is the case with all turtles, the eggs and the young are on their own. It is noteworthy that this parenting style has been successful for thousands of years.Now the next time a city friend asks what on earth do you country folk do for entertainment you will have turtle watching as an additional answer.
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