By William

Tom, over a phone conversation while I was out in my garage cleaning the many tanks I have included in my daily list of things to do, asked me if I would be interested in starting off a new addition to Austin's Turtle Page, so this is my way of expressing bits and pieces of the beginning of 46 years of what I will refer to as the turtle obsession.

At some point many of us have wandered into a pet shop, visited a zoo or were presented a gift, even found one crossing a highway or on the end of a fishing line and come across the turtle. For many this was the beginning of an almost unexplainable and quite unforeseen glimpse into what was to become a life long interest. The turtle, a four-legged self contained armored curiosity going about its business that it has done for millions of years and was capable and willing to do so with no help from you and me.

So it begins, you found the turtle or the turtle found you, you are now faced with a decision, what am I going to do, where will I keep it and what does it eat, this gets the wheels turning and anything and everything that is lying about the house that mom or dad is not going to miss is sorted through until the ultimate home is found, mine was the turkey basting base, it was deep and large and it would be at least a year before it would be missed and by then anything could have happened to it and anyone in the family was a prime suspect. Now for the decor, I know the ones at the pond sat on a rock in the sun so this was quite simple and the water was there even the lamp to simulate the sun, the lamp that I recall in the attic will do just fine. Since mine was a gift the problem of finding a suitable place to hide it was not an issue, this is something that you develop an art form for later on in life when your better half is not quite as thrilled about the shelled creature as you. The last and final and one of the most important aspects is, what does it eat and where will I find a steady source, there are no books that I can find and the dime store has the same box of dried bugs as the one that came with the turtle, I would no sooner eat it and the turtle had about as much interest as me, I knew fish ate worms and bugs so why not a turtle, this was simple enough and soon I had an assortment of jumping and wiggling, chirping and flying bugs or all sorts and sizes, tossed some in and let the little brown turtle take his pick. I soon discovered that there were some things like moths that must have tasted like the holiday fruitcake and were tasted and then avoided like the plague and others that the turtle seemed to know were as good as the dessert that was not to be touched until the dinner plate was clean. So the turtle and I had from the start a lot in common, we were both picky eaters and there were certain things that we were not going to eat no matter what the consequence.

I learned and he taught, this is the way it is with the turtle, since I lived in Chicago and never saw turtles in the snow, I had an idea that they were not to thrilled with the cold, so the heating pad and the lamp seemed to keep him happy and at this point I had no idea such great inventions as the aquarium heater existed. He didnít mind and I didnít know, we faced a new problem, cold and snow no bugs. Now it became apparent that a new food source had to be found, so it was off to the kitchen into forbidden territory when all were asleep, the search was on, it turned out that shrimp and some of the fish that seemed to find a permanent home in the freezer were acceptable to my friend, these were things that I knew the rest of my family would never miss and even a box on goldfish food was enjoyed that was donated by a neighbor. My friend the brown turtle and I made it through the long winter.

When it became time to move back to the sunshine state and all was packed up and ready to go, you see the family decided the winters were to harsh, my last stop was to pick up my little friend and hop in the car, he was nowhere to be found, I looked and looked and finally the question was asked, where is my turtle, I was told he ran away and there is no time left to look for him, you will get another one someday. Needless to say I had lost my best friend, the one that was always there, and the one who never complained.

So this folks was the beginning of what was to become a lifelong passion, to learn more from the turtle and this never ends. Yes you will make mistakes and yes there will be sad times and yes you will learn to make the very best home for your new friend and still to this day, I owe a lot to the turtle, my very best friend.