File this under “Signs you’ve never seen before.” It was our last night in Broome, so we made our way down to Cable Beach as we do most other nights, but this sign was flashing right at the entrance to the parking lot.
The entrance to the beach was blocked, so instead of driving our car onto the beach as we do most nights, we had to leave it in the parking lot and walk down to the sand. We were hoping to see the beach covered with egg-laying momma turtles, but no such luck. Seems like I’ve seen video of them coming ashore in the dark, so maybe we should have arrived a few hours later.
The first pet I ever owned was a California desert tortoise. Four year old little Jimmy didn’t know the difference between a turtle and a tortoise, so this particular tortoise was dubbed Myrtle the Turtle.
Which leads us to the photo below. This is Georgie, our former California desert tortoise.
About forty years ago one of Jamie’s cousins found Georgie crawling down the street in Westminster, California. California desert tortoises are not native to Orange County, so it was assumed that he had crawled away from someone’s back yard.
Jamie’s cousin scooped up Georgie and took him home. He happily patrolled Aunt Wanda and Uncle Terry’s backyard for thirty years or so, until Jamie’s cousins started having babies. Uncle Terry realized that the babies would also begin crawling around the back yard and concluded that George had to go because toddlers and tortoise poop were not compatible.
Jamie had always liked Georgie, so when she heard that he might need a new home, she volunteered us to become his new caretakers. Georgie was chauffeured 200 miles north to San Luis Obispo and immediately took up residence in our front yard. Of course, it wasn’t quite that simple. Contractors were just putting the finishing touches on our new home, so Jamie did some research to find out what kind of grass might be the healthiest for Georgie. That’s what was planted in our front yard.
Georgie kept an eye on our yard for nearly ten springs, summers and autumns. But each winter he hibernated in a cardboard box that was placed in a corner of our closet. Come springtime, Georgie and his special grass emerged in unison.
One year Georgie got sick. So sick that the exotic animal vet told us he should be taken into the house that winter, kept warm and awake, well fed, and occasionally soaked. One of our bathrooms was turned into his winter spa.
The following Spring, he once again began standing sentinel in our front yard. But Spring and even summer nights can be very cool in San Luis Obispo, so we had strict orders to bring him in each night to keep him toasty.
Georgie clearly disagreed with the doctor’s orders. We could tell that he wanted to stay out at night because he changed his behavior and began hiding himself as the sun went down each evening. Instead of finding him out in the open, we’d have to search the yard, sometimes spending a considerable amount of time poking behind every bush and under every shrub. When we finally found him, we’d take him back to his half bath hideaway inside the house.
Eventually, time caught up with Georgie. He gradually stopped grazing so we began hand-cutting his special grass and soaking it in water. We’d put it in a small pile of the grass right in front of his face in an attempt to keep him hydrated and fed. Sometimes he’d eat, sometimes he wouldn’t. He began losing weight (it’s not easy to tell when a shelled animal is losing weight).
Georgie hung in there and we kept hoping he would recover, but he eventually passed away while at the vet’s office.
You wouldn’t think you could get attached to a cold-blooded reptile, but Jamie sobbed.
The vet told us that he thought Georgie might have been 75 years old. Maybe even older. It takes 15-20 years for a California desert tortoise to reach adulthood, and he was full-grown when Jamie’s cousin found him wandering down the street so he had to have been at least that old. Aunt Wanda and Uncle Terry kept him in their backyard for another 30 years and we kept him for nearly ten more. Counting backwards tell us he might have been 30-40 years old when he first joined the Robinson clan.
Georgie had a long, full life. He was loved and cared for and that probably helped him live a longer, fuller life than he would have had had he been wandering the desert, always searching for food and experiencing the extremes of hot and cold that go with that environment.
So to bring this full circle, we were really excited about the possibility of seeing some of Georgie’s second cousins crawling across the sands of Cable Beach in order to lay their eggs.
Sadly, it was not meant to be. None of them showed up on the first night of their egg-laying season, and we left Broome very early the next morning.