Thursday, September 29, 2005

Sherman's in da yard!

Many years ago, when Paul was just a tot, we inherited a desert tortoise from a friend whose grandmother had it for years on her farm out on the edge of town. They had found it wandering nearby and took it in and fed it – this was before there were laws against capturing the animals. Decades pasted and grandma got old, so it they began looking for a new home for it. I eagerly volunteered, since I have always had a weird fascination with turtles. We named our new pet Tank, and he made himself at home in our back yard. Tank was an old tortoise – at least 40 to 50 years old, and he was big! He dug a burrow which he would disappear into every winter, and from which he would emerge hungry and eager every spring. We feed him watermelon and grapes, and I for one, could spend hours watching him move around the yard with his awkward home on his back, and his strange looking little elephant legs.

Paul particularly loved Tank and would begin asking about him as soon as the weather turned warm. Just like me, Paul loved to watch the Tank eat, and crawl all over the yard. We would sit and wonder about what it would be like to be Tank.

There were a few scares over the years, when I would find Tank on his back, looking bad and near death. But we always managed to save him in time. Always – except the last time.

I had gone in the backyard to feed Tank I couldn’t find him anywhere; he had a few favorite hang outs. I searched all over the yard but he was no where to be found. That was really strange because a) tortoises don’t normally run away, and b) it was the middle of a nice spring day, and Tank was always out cruising. That was when I noticed a chalky white trail leading from near Tank’s burrow, across the yard, and spotting near the back gate. (When tortoises are scared they pee white stuff.) I couldn’t believe it. Tank had been tortoisenapped.

We told Paul about what we had discovered, and we speculated about how it had happened, and wondered together about what we should do next. Tank may have been happy in our backyard, but none of us expected him to come running when we called his name. The only thing we could do was offer a reward and post fliers around the neighborhood.

A couple of days later I was on the phone with a neighbor and I told her about what had happened to Tank. “That’s funny”, she said, “My son just found a tortoise a few days ago.” I was dumbstruck. I knew immediately that it was Tank, but she kept insisting that it was not, and that it was found far away, etc. etc. I even went to see her new pet, and I KNEW it was Tank, I just didn’t know what to do about. I went home and talked to my husband and we both agreed to give it a little time, then go back and talk to her and her son again. We never got that chance. The next day Tank was dead; killed by her two dogs. I never forgave myself for not saving Tank that day.

Over the years Paul has mentioned how much he misses Tank and we have tried to find another desert tortoise, but they are an endangered species, so it’s not like you can just go pick one up at PetsMart. Then, a few weeks ago, Paul found out about a man who owned desert tortoises, and they had just had babies. The man was kind enough to give Paul one of his pet’s offspring. And that is the story of Sherman.

Oh- in case you missed it – Sherman comes from a “Sherman Tank.”