It’s that time of year where the leaves aren’t yet open and the upper branches of trees are still visible The branches always remind me of some kind of squirrel highway. At any given time you can look up and see the traffic of the squirrels. The squirrel nests are still visible and there appears to be a lot of action going on. A few minutes ago, I was watching the noon rush hour when I saw the familiar circling of a hawk. Hawks are also a wonderful thing to watch, but I’ve seen this scene before and it never ends well for the baby squirrel.
Hawk circles, hawk dives, hawk removes baby squirrel and takes it elsewhere. At least they seem to have the decency to not eat the offspring in front of the mother.
Nature is cruel. I know, there are more than enough squirrels to go around and hawks need to eat, too. It’s just so brutal. Birds are not kind hunters. A lion will at least put its prey out of its misery fairly fast. A swipe to the neck, a bash to the head will usually do it. Birds tend to eviscerate.
Watching nature in action always brings back one bad memory. A memory I keep hoping I’ll forget, but never seem to be able to. It’s hard to forget that you did something that was really stupid and all while trying to do something good.
Grizzled and I had turtles for many years. I purchased them back in the late 80’s with a roommate. It was one of those silly whims. Nostalgia for childhood pets swept over us and next thing we knew, we were buying turtles. Painted Turtles to be specific named after our evil twins, Gus and Penny. The small turtles of our youth were no longer legal to sell so these turtles were at least as big as our hands. We were still told they would live wonderfully happy lives in a 10 gallon tank with some floating food sticks. They did fine for a couple of weeks… a call to the vet let us know we needed a bigger tank and live food. They moved into a 29 gallon tank and I started shopping for live crickets. A 29 gallon tank is never as big as you think it is. We needed swimming space and lounging space. Crickets it seemed, we also not enough nutrition. We were told to get feeder fish.
Around this time, my roommate was gone and Grizzled was on the seen. The turtles stayed with us. Grizzled acquired a lovely settling tank from an old job he had as a materials researcher. The turtles new home held up to 120 gallons of water. It had a 2 inch think slate bottom with steel reinforced corners. It was enormous, but it made a wonderful home. There was plenty of room for swimming, plenty of room for lounging, plus plenty of room for keeping feeder fish. The turtles appeared to be thriving.
Penny only lasted a few years, but Gus held on. We were told Gus had most likely been taken from the wild and was stronger. He was tough. He had attitude. I often said he would have smoked if he could have. Gus took no crap from any of the other turtles. Guillermo, Penny’s replacement, was second in command, as was Smitty, Guillermo’s replacement. But Gus hung on. Gus was our constant.
Eventually, we left the city and moved to a house. The turtles moved to. We now had Gus and Franklin. I don’t recall the actual details of the moving of the turtles, but do recall that the movers were not happy with the 200lbs. empty turtle tank… But soon enough, we were all set up in our new home and turtles were a part of it. Gus had been a part of my life for about 12 years now.
a year or two after moving, it appeared Gus was not doing well. A trip to the
vet told us he had pneumonia. We were to give him daily shots of antibiotics
(not easy), feed him fresh leafy greens along with the fish and let him have
lots of sun. It was suggested we move the turtles to a kiddie pool outside. We
were told to make sure they could not get out.
Gus and Franklin ate fresh kale and
lettuce out of our garden while basking in the sun. Gus seemed to be getting stronger,
but Franklin was starting to act skittish and was trying to hide under rocks in the pool. Franklin had always been a little tweaked so I chalked it up to that.
A few days later, I went out first thing to see how they were doing. They were not in the pool. I assumed Grizzled had put them back in the tank the night before. We’d move them back in if the evening was too cool. I looked inside... No turtles. I went back outside. No turtles… and then I saw it. Turtle carnage about 10 feet away.
We have a family of foxes in our area. We have the occasional opossum, the occasional raccoon. We were so concerned with our turtles NOT getting out that we left them no way to escape natural predators.
We served our turtles up on leafy bed of kale on a kiddie pool platter.
I did not want to clean up the turtle remains, but knew the afternoon sun would not be kind to them and I did not want our little girls to see it. As I cleaned up all I could think of was nature is cruel and people can be very, very stupid.