My First Plant

(Gayla Trail at has started the Grow Write Guild, and i’m participating. if you haven’t even been over to please head over and take a look, she’s amazing and has tons of gardening advice, and appears to be a thriftaholic as well. Gayla asked us to write about our first plant.)

when I think about my first plant it’s not a plant that comes to mind, but a turtle. ok, rewind. see, when i was a kid my parents had a vegetable garden… as i grew it slowly became *my* garden as over the years my folks abandoned it to my tending and i never really noticed, but before then there were years my parents grew everything from roses to corn in the garden. at one point my youngest sister’s placenta even ended up in there, but that’s another story (and Franconian tradition, as i understand).

on a sunny fall day in the garden years before it became my charge, my parents were striking the corn, pulling it out by the roots, when WHHAATT? something hard and flat… but it’s not a rock… brush the dirt off of it… there was a turtle buried  in the corn! once mom got it cleaned up and it overcame the trauma enough to venture out of it’s shell we could see it was injured, the left side of it’s head was swollen and discolored, obvious even for a turtle with red stripes on it’s face.

my mother, ever the bleeding heart – much to my father’s consternation – took the turtle to the vet.  i gotta say, most vets are totally clueless when it comes to cold blooded animals – doc said it was a male, that it had likely been attacked by a cat and buried itself in our garden.  a red eared slider; a water turtle, and endangered, so he said. lord knows how the thing got in our corn patch, and i seriously doubt at this point that they were endangered, but that’s what the vet said.

we decided to keep him; since dad didn’t allow us cats or dogs we tended to collect small exotic pets. named him Fred. Fred lived in a tank in the living room for about a year, until he started eating rocks. the rock eating behavior concerned us; our obviously completely knowledgeable vet told us Fred was in fact female (hmm) and eating rocks in an attempt to procreate; pooping rocks instead of laying eggs (double hmmm). still under the impression that this was an endangered turtle, that it desperately wanted to make babies to the point of becoming possibly deranged and laying rock eggs, and before the internet which would have allowed us to easily research the subject, my folks decided to let Fred go in a local park with a stream, and hopefully many fetching male turtles with which to start a family. i was brokenhearted and made to stay home while they went to do the deed.

now, a good 20-30 years later, i again have a garden, and turtles, and they still bury themselves in the garden. well, Action Jackson does, he is quite fond of the strawberry patch. i have to think the plants are the perfect height for him to hide under, plus, he loves strawberries. two years ago Jackson lost a leg at the knee to a horrible raspberry stalk accident, but i love him so much i wouldn’t have him any other way, and strangely, the tradition of caring for injured turtles is carried into my adulthood. Jackson is such an amazing animal, and has overcome so much in the last few years, living through the two-part amputation of his leg with dog nail clippers (!), without anesthetic (!!), followed by six months of daily antibiotics shots to combat the abscess (!!!). sometimes the vet tortured him so badly that jackson would vomit profusely. for six months he went to work with me every day, climbed on bus seats, and generally made everyone love him. my heart just explodes with adoration whenever i look at him. he is my favorite plant.


6 thoughts on “My First Plant

  1. Wow. Goes to show you that the truth is often stranger than fiction! What a fabulous story! Turtles (and other cold-blooded creatures) are awesome. I’ve never met one, but they seem so lovely. Glad you’re still enjoying your turtles!

  2. I love the Grow Write Guild stories. I’ve been growing plants for a long time, but I just acquired a turtle last year – found the tiny little guy on a road and brought him home. It was the third baby turtle my husband and I had found in that area, so we decided nature was trying to tell us something. We think he’s a cooter, and we’re starting to suspect he’s a she… It’s been quite a learning experience!

  3. What a fantastic, fun story. Thanks for sharing it. We had turtles as kids when they sold them in pet stores for a quarter – and they were about that size. They didn’t last long, unfortunately, but they were very cute.

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