With spring on Chappy comes new beginnings — beach plums and shad bloom their weddingish flowers, oaks begin to hide the houses beyond them with their green foliage, and the landscapers dust off their to-go coffee mugs. And the fauna awakens, too. All sorts of previously unseen and unheard creatures appear as if someone was having an art opening with free food.
One of my favorite new guests this spring has been Mr Wizard. At first mistaken for a wood chip, I realized that he (she?) was, in fact, a baby turtle (the head and feet gave it away). So instead of tossing it off my golf green, I carefully placed him atop a dandelion head. He wasn’t moving much, but I could see his head peeking in and out of his shell, so I was confident he was a living baby turtle. Settled that he was well, I returned to my mowing.
But what if? What if he had been separated from his turtle family? What if I was his only hope? I knew the answer to these questions — I was a new turtle dad. But how does one care for a turtle, much less a baby one?
So I turned off my mower, checked on Mr. Wizard, then went to get my iPhone to Google “baby turtle care.” I also called my friend who has raised all sorts of wildlife, including pigeons and skunks. Her first question to me was, “What kind of turtle is it?” A really small one. That didn’t help much. But she suggested that I make it a mini terrarium. At one time in my life (in second grade), I was rather well known for my terrarium architecture, but (as with most things) my age precluded having kept that skill memory in the brain folder. I did have a J.Crew shoebox (finally those ridiculously expensive flip flops would serve a purpose), and a cereal bowl (I used one of approximately 60 that our summer house provided — though I’m certain a returning renter will email me why we only have 59 cereal bowls now), so I figured I could make a decent replica of a pond surrounded by a grassy knoll. I cut a shoebox-sized piece of sod, and from that cut a bowl-sized hole in it — put some water in the bowl and romaine lettuce on the grass and put the whole deal in the box. Viola! Mr Wizard’s new home.
I jogged fast (couldn’t run or I’d spill the pond water) back to Mr. Wizard’s place of residence — the dandelion head. Like a Darien real estate broker, I was beyond excited to show my client/my son his new home!
But he was gone. Not even a note. It didn’t help that I had placed him within two feet of his natural camouflage — a wood chip depository — but how far could those one-millimeter legs take him? Apparently pretty far. I searched for almost 30 minutes, and cursed myself for not spray painting him with the orange paint I had on hand to mark my sprinkler heads . . . then I’d find him! But paint probably isn’t good for a turtle’s shell — even painted turtles.
So I comforted myself with the thought that his family came back in their old station wagon to pick him up, profusely apologizing for leaving him behind. God speed, Mr. Wizard.
In other news, my right-hand-man Randy had a very fair question about the safety of spreading my organic fertilizer, comprised of mashed up fish and crustacean parts: if he got some in his nose would he be in danger of, later in the week, sneezing out a seahorse? I assured him that there was no need for concern — seahorse cannot gestate in human sinuses. Spider crabs, however, are another story. So we’re on the lookout for those.