Wednesday, May 26, 2010

About a Boy...

His name is Captain Jackson Pharaoh, Jax for short (I do not claim responsibility for that name. I blame the kids. They wanted to name him Jack Sparrow of Caribbean fame, but I objected strenuously. I prevailed, but, as you can see, just barely) . He sails the world of under-birdcage for now, in a huge home made terrarium, complete with a pond for his wading pleasure.

He is my turtle.

Now I know that you, little readers, did not know of my precious Jax. I've been saving him, see. I love animals of all types; my dogs, Sarrow and Chancey, are very near and dear to me, my cats, Mufasa and White Chocolate, are simply a joy, the bird not so much a joy (he's a mean ass, Gemini is), the fish are... well, fish. They just swim there in the corner and act fish-like.

Ah, but Jax. Jax is a little love.

See, when I was 6, my daddy brought me a turtle. And I have a way with the little critters. I can't explain it... turtles just like me. I can pick up any turtle I see, wild or in a pet store, and be petting its head within a minute. I shit you not. Anyhow, that particular turtle my father brought to me was a female, whom I named Georgia. She was the best frigging pet in the world. She'd stretch out her neck and rub her little beak on my cheeks, she'd sit with me and watch TV. I could let Georgia loose in the house to run around and play, and she always came to find me after she'd gotten her tired on. Then she'd follow me around until I put her back in the terrarium to sleep.

Eventually, I let Georgia go. I didn't want to, but I had to. I'd kept her for two years and it started to feel wrong to keep her for reasons I didn't understand. Even back then, I had a sense of it being wrong.

Oh, but Georgia came back. In fact, she came back every fucking year until I was 15 years old. I'd be walking to the bus stop and there she'd be, beside the road, boogieing her little hard-shell ass back to the house. It was funny, because when she saw me, she'd start running towards me. Every time. It was like she missed me.

Turtles are highly intelligent, believe it or not. Especially the North American Box Turtle, of the Eastern variety, not the ornate kind thank you so very much, and I firmly believe that Georgia understood that I loved her very much, in a turtle-like kind of reasoning, of course. Why would she come back year after year if she didn't get it at least a little bit?

But of course, Jax is not Georgia. I'm getting to him, I promise.

Anyhow, one year Georgia didn't come back. I was heart-broken when July came around and still no orange and black shell came boogieing up the street for a visit.

Zip forward several years, seven to be exact, and all three of my children are going out of the toddler stage. I am twenty-two, my youngest child is three.

And my husband brings home a tiny little Box Turtle he'd found at work. The poor thing was so light--positively hollow--and she was barely more than a baby in turtledom. He brought the little girl home for our children.

But she, like Georgia, was mine from the minute we met. And she, also like Georgia, attached to me just as much as I did her. Her name was Serafina.

Now, you may be asking how in blue-fuck did I know the gender of the turtles. No, there are no pink and blue ribbons tied to their ankles, they don't wear skirts or lipstick. A box turtle can be sexed by their eye color. Red eyes means male, brown/amber means female. Not rocket science, huh?

Anyhow, I didn't keep Serafina for very long. She became depressed (yes, turtles get depressed) and her stress levels went through the roof. My kids were just too young, see. They wanted to constantly hold/play/run around waving the turtle in the air. And for a very young turtle who has had no taming or handling, it's extremely stressful.

Zip forward another few years. I'm walking down the road with my husband and, lo and behold, a box turtle scooting its way alongside the street, just like Georgia used to do but no where near as quickly. My husband likes to poke fun at me over my turtle obsession (I have a jade turtle necklace I will share the story about one day, but not today) and told me: "Go get it, baby. Maybe it's your Georgia reincarnated." I almost hated him for that because I still miss Georgia. But see, he knows how turtles take to me. He saw it with Serafina and a couple other females I'd picked up, but never kept, throughout the years.

Anyhow, I go over and take a quick gander at the turtle and it draws up into its shell. The great thing about box turtles is that they can close their shell entirely, unlike others of the same species. It makes them unique in turtledom, you know?

Anyway, I start talking to it. (Yes, I talk to turtles. So what?) I ask it what it's doing, so close to the road like that. Don't it know it could get hurt? After all, a great big truck is heavy enough to crack even as good a shell as this one.

My husband behind me chuckles and laughs, as he so often does at my antics.

But the shell opens up and a little head pokes out. I don't know if it's the way I talk to them or what, but I've always been able to talk a turtle into coming out for a pow-wow. True, I do all the talking, even the incredible box turtle isn't much of a conversationalist, but they respond to my voice.

Anyhow, I am delighted to see a bright pair of red eyes looking at me. A boy! It's my very first boy turtle and I couldn't be more thrilled.

See, I don't keep the females because they need to lay eggs. Box turtles are getting rarer and rarer all the time, and a female turtle can produce many offspring throughout her twenty-five year lifespan. So, I don't keep female turtles. Turtledom needs the eggs and baby turtles to keep Turtledom alive and going. Without turtles, there would be no Turtledom of the wild. I didn't know why I felt bad for keeping Georgia when I was a child, but as I grew up, I understood my feelings of guilt.

After a second or two, I reach down to pick up this red-eyed miracle in a shell and he doesn't draw in. And as I go back to my husband's side, I'm already scratching the top of this boy turtle's head. Minutes later, I'm rubbing under his chin and he's loving it.

My husband says (on that day) that I'm the only person he knows that can find, pick up, and begin petting a turtle within minutes. Sometimes even tame turtles draw up and away from people they don't know.

As I said, I have a way with the critters.

So, Captain Jackson Pharaoh comes home with me. I build him a temporary terrarium until I can make the turtle alcove outside habitable again.

I still have my Turtledom sign. It goes up when the outdoor alcove is reopened.

Jax is a great turtle. He's moody, and can be grumpy if he hasn't had a little tomato or strawberry every week, but he's an awesome pet. He climbs all over me, all over his little area with its rocks and logs. He loves to soak in his little pond and I swear, I can almost hear him purring when I rub his chin (not literally, but turtles are so expressive! You can see that if he could purr when I rub his chin, he would). His claws get sharp every once in a while, but they wear down on the rocks in his little area soon enough.

Who knows? Now that I have a boy turtle, maybe I'll find another girl turtle someday to bring home and give him a friend. And if we have baby turtles, then I can release them at proper age and help replenish some of the box turtle populace.

I love them so much, these turtles. It's sad to see their numbers dwindle. Destruction of their natural habitats, roadways, and of course, their natural predators, have their way with these little creatures. But in my Turtledom, the babies would be safe from predators and other dangers, at least until they are old enough to make it on their own. And it very much mimics their natural habitat, with their natural foods of slugs, worms and other creepy-crawlies, as well as the tasty treats of melon, strawberry and tomato I buy for them.

So, that's my about a boy. About my little love, my turtle Jax. In my own life, there have been many pets. Turtles will always be welcome at my house, in Turtledom. I have a strange and wondrous love for these reptiles that I can't explain. But we get it, the turtles and me. Isn't that the only thing that matters?

Peace & Love


  1. I've had dozens of turtles but never kept them for more than a few days. Mostly box turtles. When I was 7 I showed my turtle to the little girl next door. It bit her on the nose. :( I guess she didn't have your knack. I still feel bad.

    I prefer they remain wild but I've put out food hoping they would hang around. They eventually wonder off.

    I've never known a turtle to be affectionate. I've not seen one since I left the east coast. There are desert tortoise here but to see one is a rarity to be appreciated.

    We have plenty of microgophers! :) Officially they are called Round Tailed Ground Squirrels. Interesting little guys, especially the youngsters. Beyond that I only see scorpions and rattlesnakes. :\

    How I miss going into the wild and actually seeing wildlife.

    Best of luck to you and Jax, tortoise whisperer. :)

  2. It's nice you let the girl turtles go free to lay eggs, but boy turtles like Jax have their turtle urges too. You might want to consider occasionally buying him a soft pron magazine like Playturtle, turning down the lights and playing a Barry White CD for him. It's not the real thing, but, you know, he's only a turtle.

  3. What a sweet story!

    We have an aquatic musk turtle named Algae that my husband found in a sack of crawfish, and she is the luckiest little turtle ever. Not only because we didn't boil her alive *shudder*, but because she's barely six inches, and shares a 100 gallon tank with only a few rosy reds and some ghost shrimp.

    I talk and sing to her all the time, even though my husband said at first she couldn't hear me, but I know she does. She comes to get fed when I sing her name. And she loves to watch me fold the laundry. ;)

    When we have our own house, I'd love to do tortoise and terrestrial turtle rescue, but we just don't have the room right now.

    Good luck with Jax!

  4. What an awesome story! Thank you so much for sharing. I'm going to call you Effie, the Turtle Whisperer now. :)

  5. Gawd, what a cute image!! Lil' you lyin on your back with Georgia nudging your cheek!! *squishes* Come here so I can pinch yer face sweets!

  6. We're getting our first turtle! She needed a good home and I am so very thrilled. I'll have to ask you for turtle tips! :D

  7. Woo hoo!Turtles rock. Ask me anytime, Sadie. What kinda turtle are ya getting?