As is my daily custom this time of year, three days ago, I climbed the hill to my vegetable garden before the sun topped the trees to glare down on my thirsty charges. I toted my camera in my harvest basket, in case something photo-worthy appeared. I was glad I had done so when I approached the garden gate and spied this fellow impatiently waiting for me, his neck outstretched as he puzzled over how to get past the pot I use to block the bottom of the gate. “It’s about time you showed up,” he grumbled. “The early turtle catches the worm, you know.”
“Good morning, Sir Turtle,” I replied. “I thought that axiom applied to birds, but if it’s worms you’re after, you’ll likely find more down on the floodplain. That’s where the Red-shouldered Hawks hunt for them. Are you sure you weren’t perhaps interested in something else in my garden?”
“Water,” he replied. “I smell water in the green things growing in there. I was hoping you would share.”
“Ah, now we’re down to it, aren’t we, sir? You aren’t the only creature interested in the growing food I’m trying to coax through this heat and drought. I actually put that pot there to deter the bunnies I meet often – right where you’re standing – their noses wiggling, ears erect, as they imagine gorging themselves on the fruits of my labor.” Sir Turtle snorted, “Bunnies are idiots, and notoriously greedy. If you let me in, I promise you won’t even know I’ve been there.”
I thought about it briefly, then shook my head. “I’m sorry, sir, but I don’t think it’s wise for me to trust your discretion in this matter. First, you would find yourself trapped within the fence — just as there’s no way in for you, there is also no way out.” “Second, you have a lean and hungry look in those red eyes of yours. I don’t think you could stop yourself from munching on low-hanging green beans, ripe tomatoes, and succulent squash fruits. Would you munch my drought-stressed parsley too? And the carrot and beet greens valiantly struggling to fill out their roots below in the parched earth? Would you nibble my zinnias, or perhaps my nasturtiums? It’s not a large garden. I’m afraid I just don’t have anything to spare, especially given our sky’s unwillingness to rain.” Sir Turtle pulled his head half way into his shell and studied me. “If it’s rain you want, I can help. If you open the gate and let me in, I’ll pull some strings and summon showers.” “I don’t know, Sir Turtle,” I replied. “You’re a land creature, not a water beast like your Snapper cousins who dwell in the muddy creek bottom. What sort of influence do you have with rain gods?”
“Trust me, old woman. Let me in, and I will call the rain.”
Frankly, I doubted his claim of watery influence. After all, the Yellow-billed Cuckoos called at the appearance of every juicy cloud that passed nearby, but the clouds did not come. The Copes Gray Tree Frogs chorused lustily every time a cloud darkened the sky or the humidity rose a bit. Same for the Narrow-mouthed Toads whose nasal drones rattled the windows as they sat around our front pond and begged the clouds for mercy. If these known rain-callers remained unsuccessful, I could not imagine that a dusty-shelled box turtle could do any better. “I’m sorry, Sir Turtle. I just can’t bear the thought of you eating your way through my little vegetable patch. I must respectfully decline your request.” I gently moved the pot out of the way, opened the gate enough to squeeze through, and closed it behind me.
Sir Turtle turned his back on me, but before he scuttled off through the dry grass, he paused to make his parting pronouncement. “You shall pay for your lack of generosity, old woman. The dawn of the Summer Solstice will greet you with a prolonged round of heat and drought, the likes of which will make you long for the weather of previous weeks. Old Sol will burn your tender green babies and drain your shallow well into muddy uselessness.” “You may well be right, Sir Turtle,” I replied. “Such is the lot of gardeners everywhere. We sow, feed, weed, and water as best we can. We rejoice in the good years, and weep at the bad years of whimsical weather patterns, reminded always that we are not in charge of our little green kingdoms, merely caretakers. Good day, Sir Turtle. May we all be blessed with what we need to flourish.”