Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Fast-moving Tortoise

I don't know what kind of tortoises they are, or how they came to live at Black Pines Animal Sanctuary, but most of the residents there are rescued from misguided captors who tried to own exotic animals in places where they cannot thrive in good health or happiness. So whatever the early history of these tortoises, they are lucky to be at Black Pines now, and for the rest of their lives. 

When we visited, at least, they were having a pretty good day. 


In the heat of the moment he toppled onto his back and couldn't right himself. She tried her best to flip him over, but was unsuccessful. What sweet display of tenderness for her best beloved, I thought. The keeper intervened, explaining that a tortoise will suffocate if stranded too long on its back.

 Judging from the high speed chase that followed the rescue, I may have misinterpreted the she turtle's motives for helping her mate. This is her chasing him, not the other way around. Looks more like she's thinking, "You better finish what you started, you bastard." dkm 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Bengal Stare

Never mind the fence. To be on the receiving end of a bengal tigress's predatory focus at close range is a thing of fear I had not expected to know in this good life. It wasn't actually me she was interested in, but my six-year-old grandson, Nick, who hid behind me once he caught on to what was happening. The attention of this tiger — taut, twitching, and intent on Nick's every movement — was like that of a domestic cat stalking small prey, but the size and sharply defined stripe of her physique were enough to knock that comparison right out of the park. The enormity of her head alone was breathtaking. And her eyes, good grief, the laser-like focus of her bronze-colored eyes! I could not look away.

We were visiting the Black Pines Animal Sanctuary in Albion, Indiana, a rescue and refuge center for displaced and captive-raised exotic animals. The young intern who was our tour guide remained calm and unbothered as she explained that captive tigers will sometimes focus on children when they can't hunt in the wild. With only three feet and a metal mesh fence (to be fair, it was heavy metal :-) between us and that big cat's stare, I could feel the proverbial adrenalin rush. 

Looking back, I'm astonished by my own sense of protectiveness for Nick in that moment. I remember pressing my arms around him behind my back, honestly feeling prepared and willing to throw myself on top of him if the tiger lunged, however unlikely the possibility. Getting out a camera never once crossed my mind. No matter. The image of those alert eyes trained on small Nick is permanently burned to memory, giving new meaning to the song title, "The Eye of the Tiger." dkm

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Why Does the Chicken Cross the Road?

To lay an egg. My daughter and daughter-in-law, who live in a pretty little brick house in the tiny rural town of Wolflake, Indiana, had told me about their neighbor's hen, but the story didn't really take, until I saw it for myself, while visiting with grandchildren. I had thought it was a one-time occurrence, but turns out it happens daily, and has been going on for more than a month.  Some time during every day, the hen escapes her own fence, marches across the street into Hannah and Lisa's yard, settles into the same corner against their house, and lays one enormous egg. Deed done, she cackles and marches back home. So far, she has given them over three dozen eggs, for which their good neighbors will accept no payment.


 Why DOES she do this? She has a perfectly lovely place for laying eggs in her own yard, which seems to suit her yard mates just fine. Is she smarter or not as smart as the other chickens? Is it simply that she, like me, craves silence and solitude in a busy chaotic world? Perhaps to seasoned raisers of laying hens this is not unusual behavior. Still, it is a remarkable thing, made more so by the size of her eggs. 

Too large for standard egg carton
One egg, double yoke, fills entire ramekin

It's a surprising and special phenomenon for my city grandchildren, too. When ten-year-old Makayla collected one of the eggs immediately after it was laid, I thrilled to hear her catch her breath and whisper, "It's warm."

The neighbors haven't named their hens, but Hannah and Lisa call this one Red, after the cook on their favorite TV show, Orange is the New Black, who said in a memorable episode, "All I wanted to do was eat a chicken that was smarter than other chickens, and absorb its power."

I'm hoping to absorb Red's creative energy, having eaten her eggs. dkm

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Perfect Parents

A pleasure and comedy I did not know to anticipate today was to sit on a backyard bench with my six-year-old grandson observing a pair of parent housewrens feed their young in the new house on the old dogwood trunk all covered with ivy. Pleasure because of the magic, the wonder, and the mystery such observations are to me. Comedy because the experience was none of that to Nick.

Alone on the bench I'm thinking it's a scene picturesque, sublime, edifying, enlightening, thrilling . . . any number of comparable adjectives. I want to share the moment. I call Nick to come watch with me. We sit quietly, waiting together for the next lovely instant when one or the other of the parents brings a morsel of food just right for its nestling wren. I find it comforting to hear the tiny helpless creatures cry when their parents arrive, then quiet immediately when fed, not unlike human babes in arms. I say so to Nick. He doesn't answer. I whisper, "Here she comes. Here she comes!" Sharp intake of breath. "See? She has a worm for her babies. Listen! Listen! Ahhh! Isn't that just the sweetest thing? They're perfect parents. They know exactly what their children want. Just like your mommy and daddy."

Nick jerks his head around to stare at me. He says, "Omi! They're screaming, like NUTS! They're fighting over WORMS! Are you kidding me? That is NOTHING like us."

I see his point. Some day he'll see mine. dkm