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Robin Richmond Mason: Turtle soup | lifestyles

I must begin this article with a reader’s discretion advisory. I normally try to keep my articles for Beaverdale rated “G.” After all, my column is family oriented. Even the logo represents my homeland and the finest people that you could ever meet.

None this week I am making an exception. The extraordinary events of the last few weeks have pushed me over the line. If you continue to read, it is only because you have judged your own present constitution as staunch and stable. I am warning you, my faithful reader, “The material that you are about to read is presented for mature viewing only. The implications of violence, interspecies discord and graphic descriptions of destruction may trouble some people.“

It all began in May. The setting was my near Eden, in my Paint Lick backyard to be exact. In this utopia there exist some of my favorite things. The entrance to the setting includes the picket fence, trampoline, swing sets, the dog igloos and cat cottages.

A further delightful stroll takes the viewer beyond my Amish-designed chicken coop, around pumpkin mountain, past the little orchard, the perennial garden, the raspberry row, the blackberry patch, the spring garden, the buzzing apiary and finally to the main vegetable garden . The back yard of our homestead is such a pleasant and productive environment that I feel a sense of joy and peace while describing it.

Hijacked, I’ll tell you! That is what has happened to my sense of joy and peace. Here I am painting a panorama of this lush horticultural haven and my blood begins to boil at the thought of the evil that has taken root.

The first evidence of destruction presented itself as 10 juicy, heirloom tomatoes destroyed in one night. I skipped out to the garden with my handmade, wooden basket only to discover that a large single bite had been taken from the bottom of 10 of my prize tomatoes. The loss was stunning.

I removed the damaged fruit and sat down in the grass to recover from the scene. Oh well, I reasoned, one must pay a price for living on the edge of the wilderness. I tell myself this as I remind the children to watch out for coyotes when they play outside after dark. We’ve discussed and practiced how to respond to a bear encounter, and we’ve even named one of the resident snakes “Boomerang” because of his frequent appearances of him. I am not a novice, I recognize that environments must be shared.

The bitten treasures were gathered and transported to the chicken coop and I took my first investigative crawl through the tomato rows. There was not a reptile in sight. Prevention is always a great theme and so I secured the tomato cages and tied the lowest branches of each plant a little higher. I picked all of the ripe tomatoes and returned to my kitchen with a naive hope that the turtle had only been a famished troubadour.

A couple of days later, the pillage was reenacted. Huge chunks of Brandywine, Mortgage Lifter, Green Zebras and even the Cherokee Purple were missing. The contents of some of the fruit lay in nauseating puddles near the base of their mother plants. It was a gory, pathetic sight.

The chicken shared my remorse and I doubled my crawling efforts. I also snatched every weed that represented undergrowth cover around the tomato plants. The surviving fruit was gathered and suddenly I became aware that I was not alone in the garden. Two beady eyes met my glare. The culprit was there, hiding beneath a German Green. I snatched that villain with rabid speed. He was placed in a shoe box and transported to Silver Creek. At this point in the story, I still had a modicum of compassion.

Rodger spoke the first words that dampened my temporary victory. He said, “There may have been more than one turtle.” I felt a tinge of paranoia creeping in. I needed help and wisdom from a sage, so I called my Dad. He listened with kindness and respect but I think that he may have taken my pain too lightly. My mother shared the fact that my grandmother had once squared off with a reptile foe in her own tomato patch, and then my sister poured salt on my wounds.

Lori’s exact words were “Make friends with the turtle.” Are you joking? I should have known better than to call that tree hugger. How could I have made myself so vulnerable? It is easy to give shallow platitudes from a distance. Forget the counsel, I needed action.

Alison and Andrew stepped up to the plate. They designed, built and baited a turtle trap. They even embellished the exterior with a turtle version of Marilyn Monroe, and some butterflies just asking to be eaten. Oh these children are bone of my bone, such creative problem-solvers.

Two days later, not in the trap, Andrew found a second turtle right by the Oxheart variety. We drove that fellow to another water source and returned to find his brother of him lounging in the blackberry patch. A week later another visitor was evident near the Tommy Toes. This character, too, was treated with dignity and relocated. But now, now I am beyond civilized responses.

A new culprit has taken up residence and destroyed 30 tomatoes this week. He has eaten his way up the rows and demonstrated a slight boredom with the ripening 16 heirloom varieties. Last night, he even ate the bottom out of a huge unripened Great White.

This is it! I can’t take anymore! I am not sharing! This is not a charity effort! I don’t slave away in my chemical-free, totally organic, earth-friendly vegetable patch in order to feed turtles. I’ve shown species respect beyond measure and I am not normally a violent person but everyone has a breaking point and I want you to hear the crumble.

Someone had best called the National Wildlife Federation and placed the common box turtle on the endangered species list. This is war. Samson’s riddle has found a new application and I am busily searching for the best turtle soup recipe.


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