Sparky the Back Yard Turtle

We had a little surprise visitor this morning.  Isn’t he handsome?

When I first saw that little reptilian head and the back of his shell poking up in the grass, I was afraid we were getting ready to have to confront a big honkin’ snake, so my “Mama Instincts” kicked in  and I hustled both dogs back into the house.

THEN, I went back out to investigate, camera in hand.

SOOOOOOO HAPPY that it was NOT a snake because we had ourselves very a nice little visit.

Our guest told me that he had smelled water, and decided he should check it out.  Said the places he and his kinfolk  usually count on for a little refreshment had  purt’ near dried up, and that things weren’t looking too good for the days ahead.  In fact, he doesn’t think it’s ever going to rain again in Texas — or even in the whole world.  Turtles are known for being a bit pessimistic.

Naturally I told him  he was welcome to stay as long as he wanted and to partake of all the bugs he could find.  Even turned the sprinkler on him for a little bit, and he was most appreciative.

I asked if he’d mind posing for a few natural-light outdoor portraits, and he perked right up. Did you know that turtles have egos?  Oooohhh.  This guy is quite proud of himself.  When I told him that I thought he looked particularly intelligent, he said that I was darn right.  After all, wasn’t he the one that found the green place with the rain maker thing in it?

When I asked his name,  though, he just looked at me.  Told me I wouldn’t understand Turtlel-ese, and that I should just pick something that I’d remember because names mean more to humans than they do to turtles.

Have you ever tried to name a turtle? It’s harder than it seems.

When I was about eight years old, I had  a little green turtle from Woolworth’s.  Pokey lived for a short time  in our bathroom  in one of those spiral dishes with a stiff plastic palm tree growing up in the middle of it.  He was a happy and friendly little guy, until the night he took a bubble bath with my younger brothers.  Jim,  A desert tortoise,  came to our back yard in Midland for several years in a row.  Everyone  knew his name was Jim because someone had painted J-I-M on his back  in big red letters with fingernail polish.  We figured it was probably the kid named Jim who lived in the Floyd’s rent house down the block for about a year . . . but wild turtles are not to be owned.  That’s why he came to stay at our house.

This guy, however,  was DEFINITELY not a Pokey or a Jim but he still needed a name.

He thinks he’s a Gulf Coast Box Turtle.  At least no one has told him otherwise, so we nearly decided on Karumbe-Boaska, because it means Turtle-Box in Gujarati and it sounds super cool. We had to look up the word for Box on Google Translator.    Don’t ask how we knew the Karumbe part.

In the end we decided to keep things simple and go with Sparky in honor of  his intelligence and  as a nod to Fourth of July Fireworks —  of which there will be none in our neighborhood this year thanks to the drought.

Sparky was less than thrilled to make acquaintance with Lucy, so he announced that  he’d be moving along.  He is DEFINITELY a Sparky, not a Pokey.  Maybe he’ll come back to visit, but he’s not making any promises.     But thank you for turning on the rain maker for a bit.


  1. Great, beautiful pictures Shelly!! You got the best angle from your friend. I’m sure he will carry those pics every where so he can brag just like those proud grandparents do.

    You can see in those cute eyes and face how delighted he was having fun in your backyard. I hope he comes to visit you again.

  2. You are right! He is a handsome reptile. A few of his cousins were living in my yard in the turtle condo which sounds surprisingly like your Jim’s residence. I say “were living” because we took them to GA as a wedding gift for our cousin. The lovely bride is a big turtle fan–even has a turtle tattoo! I miss those little guys. Looking for some more hatchlings every day since some Mama turtles were recently seen laying eggs in the neighborhood.

  3. Thanks for the comments, Montse and Marybeth. I really do enjoy (most of) the critters that come into my yard, and love to share them.

    Marybeth, I’ve never seen any kind of baby turtles in the wild. That would be a real treat. Do you put anything in your yard to attract them or encourage them to stay?

  4. There is a small lake behind our house with quite a few turtles. It makes me smile to see them sunning themselves on the bank on a cold winter day. They lay their eggs on land, and sometimes the hatchlings find their way into our pool.

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