“Turtle alert,” my wife called as she gazed out the kitchen window to report movement in our backyard.” Sloth on my part will begat a second, sharper claxon call, “Turtle alert!” Should I foolishly ignore the call because I am at some important function (like a video game), she repeats the alert louder and rapidly to sound like “turd alert.” The same thing happened with Hodor, a Game of Thrones character who sometimes got excited and repeated that he would keep a door closed.
Sure enough, a fair-sized terrapin turtle, with lozenge-shaped burnt orange marks on his shell, patrolled our lawn. Ever-so-often, he craned his neck to gain more range to support his quest for the elusive mushroom, a backyard delicacy which he craves. However, a light and steady rain will transform this armored gourmet into “stud turtle.” We can only speculate that rain acts as an aphrodisiac in our terrapins. More of them leave the woods to play in our backyard during a light rain, and we get to learn the purpose of nature as the males comically mount the females.
Likely, on sunny days, we only see male terrapins. Anything but social then, they behave as though they defend territory on those days, or they react to a perceived theft of property. “Hey, that other turtle ate my mushroom!” Rarely do they fight. The larger ones will run at the smaller ones, who quickly haul it in a different direction. However, on rare occasions, two large turtles will engage in a staring contest. Their proximity seems as a measure of resolve. Their art of war: serious staring, serious lack of movement, and the tension in the air enters the house to affect my wife.
“What are they doing now?” she fidgets during a Hallmark Romance chick flick. Unable to enjoy her show, she wears down the carpet to gather more turtle reports. Sometimes the turtle war of stares will last for hours before some restructure of territory seems to occur. Then, we see each of the big guys patrol different turf in our backyard… unless a mushroom comes into play.
Our terrapins are happy additions to our backyard animal visitors, which also include squirrels, rabbits, moles, the occasional red-tailed hawk, a deer, and most rarely, a wild turkey. At night, different animals begin their shift: raccoons, foxes, possums, and owls. But our alert about seeing any of the other wildlife, “I see nature,” seems to imply that the terrapin turtles have a special place in our lives. I am glad that Australian Fitzroy River Turtles don’t visit. They breathe through their rear ends, a thing that I have placed on my “never want to see” list. #TAG1writer