Posted by: Kate | September 29, 2008

Wild Kingdom

Saturday, after we returned home from our trip up the mountain, we drove home through a long, constant deluge.  As we pulled into the driveway, I thought I noticed something on the glass sliding door of the breezeway, some bloblike, greenish thing, that I was pretty sure didn’t belong there.  Sure enough, we entered the house and found a tiny, tiny frog – toad, maybe?  since there are no lakes around here?  but bright green and slippery – about the size of my thumbnail.

The kids were enthralled, in their usual ways: Emily pounced at the chance to hold it, dawdled over the process of letting it go, and mae any number of girly, “Awww” type noises.  Jacob watched, fascinated, from a safe distance.

This morning, Emily and Willem were up and off to their respective schools, and Jacob and I lazed around the house for an hour or so before getting dressed and ready for the highlight of our social agenda on Mondays: the grocery store.  Our living room and kitchen are open-concept, with an eight-foot-wide doorway between, and I am completely certain that the floor was clean, with no stray toys or pens or critters anywhere within sight.  In the time it took me to move six steps from the doorway to the fridge for the shopping list, Jacob squealed, “Mom, there’s a lizard in here!”  Yeah, sure, right, kiddo.  We have never once seen any lizards at all anywhere on the property – except for the one on the roof – since we moved here.  I’m sure you’re just imagining —

Oh.  Look at that.  There’s a lizard in here.

It was a little thing, maybe three inches long, with a tiny snakelike body and black, shiny, sticky skin.  It was vaguely like a newt in the way its feet were, but it was narrow the whole length, without a fatter belly area, and it moved fast.  I scooped it up and cupped it in both hands to get it out of the house, all the while disagreeing with its apparent insistence on showing me its imitation of a lemming.  I got it outside, where it promptly hid in the floor mat by the breezeway – which, great idea, how’s about you hide in the precise place where we wipe our feet? – and later snuck off into the front garden and away to its lizard lifestyle.

Bizarre, especially because in three-plus years of living here, we’ve never encountered either lizard or amphibian inside the house.

Off we went, then, to the grocery store, and bought makings for chili and lemon pie and various other household necessities (why, yes, I did buy chocolate and ice cream, why do you ask?).  We headed out to the parking lot, and Jacob climbed into his seat and buckled himself in while I unloaded the cart.  I pushed the empty cart over to the little corral thing, and glanced to my right.

Several yards away, there was a crowd of six or eight people, staring at something on the ground.  It was largeish – at first I thought it was a hat or a purse, but then thought it was too big for that (not being in Texas, you don’t see a lot of cowboy hats around here), and when it suddenly stood up on four legs and started tiptoeing away, I was certain it was not a hat.

No, it was a turtle.  So I scampered over to the car, quickly unlatched Jacob and carried him over to share in the excitement.  The shell was approaching two feet in diameter, and it was a snapping turtle – ask the 20-something guy holding it how he knew – and all in all was big and healthy and, well, turtlelike.  A few members of the crowd walked it over to the fence at the side of the parking lot, on the other side of which is a marshy, swamplike area, and one guy held up the bottom of the fence while the other one encouraged (in the form of a sneaker to the tail) the turtle to go on home.

And thus it did, thereby – for now, anyway – ending my adventures with wildlife for the day.  I would by no means consider our town to be citylike, but at the same time it’s developed enough that these sorts of encounters are few and far between.  Except, you know, when they all clump together at once.


  1. oh my kids would be all over that!!!! Lizards just hatched here so we have them all over the place, funny no crickets though, that is one thing I love about this time of year-we don’t need the house treated for insects mother earth has her own remedies.

  2. Must have been the wet weather encouraging them to move closer to home. They’ve probably been there all the time. I have skinks in the house, quite big ones during the summer but they drop their tails if you try to rescue them so I leave them be! Frogs are good to have around, means you have a great non toxic environment!

  3. We end up with lizards in the house on a regular basis. They scoot in screen door when the kids leave it open. Fortunately they don’t bother me in the least.

    We also have a small man-made pond in the back yard that is inhabited by frogs, which I don’t like. Every once in a while B will torture me by bringing in a frog, just because he can.

  4. it must be the weeks for lizard-like creatures. i found a gecko in my bathroom this past weekend. it was just a baby. or what i would think a gecko baby would look like since it was quite small and even more translucent (yuck) than the bigger ones i have seen.
    in the sw desert. a gecko is not something i would expect to see. 🙂

  5. that’s really awesome.

    Frank saw an armadillo near his work the other day. In New Jersey. I had no idea they ventured this far north.

  6. Fun! Sounds like you have a skink. They love to live near doorways, under mats, in flowerpots, or in various nooks and crannies.

    And they can grow to be big! My parents’ gardenia bush sheltered a skink who got to be over a foot long. We called him Gramps.

  7. That is so cool. Makes me think about how things always happen in 3’s – well, the wild kingdom showed up like that too for you!

  8. I miss tree frogs and turtles. They don’t really have them here. I remember painted and snapping turtles and many frogs and salamanders and snakes from my days east of the Mississippi. What cool things you and Jacob got to discover today!

  9. It’s always a little unsettling to find some unexpected “nature” in the house, isn’t it! I still shriek and carry on like a little kid when the cat sneaks in the door with a mouse.
    The turtle scene makes me laugh – my mom is a world-class turtle rescuer, and will go to great lengths to help any species of turtle cross the road. My grandfather wasn’t as big a fan, and there are several stories of him “relocating” giant snappers from the banks of the reservior behind their house, with the help of steel garbage cans plunked on the hood of his Karmann Ghia, down the road to the other side of the pond. It was probably the same turtle over and over.

  10. How weird. What does it mean? I was out for my walk/jog the other day when I saw a dead copperhead snake about a mile up the road. Gee, now I know there really are poisonous snakes in these hills.

  11. How random! Last night, after I pulled in the driveway, I noticed something squiggling at the edge of the driveway right in front of the garage.

    It was a garden snake.

    So of course all 3 boyz had to come outside and check it out.

    Are we being overrun by reptiles in New England all of a sudden? What’s the deal?

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