Crocodiles, Tortoises and Piggies, oh my!

Kerry with a giant tortoises, more below

He was saying, “I’m not going to talk to you unless you have baby carrots”.  This is a reserve close to Alvin, Texas called Crocodile Encounter.  It was literally in the middle of nowhere on a rough road that had just been repaved.  Even so, there was no room in the car park for me.  It was as hot as hell – 109 head index with humidity through the roof.  The shot below gives you a little feel of the conditions.

It wasn’t raining – this is the humidity on my camera.  I truly love alligators and crocodiles; primeval animals.  To be honest, I don’t know which ones were alligators or crocodiles because the heat had fried my brain.  I prefer reserves to zoos for all the obvious reasons and this sign describes why I liked it.

There are so many predators in the wilds of Texas that small crocodiles could be eaten.  It looked like crocodile heaven and even hog heaven.  I wanted to jump into the pool with the little piggy.

I loved that you could get really close to the animals.  We live alongside alligators all the time in south east Texas and these ones are really well fed.  In Louisiana we saw kittens playing close to an alligator who was basking in the sun.  Plenty of catfish to feed everyone.

This is such a beautiful crocodile, perfectly designed for living in the swamp.

Can you see me?

I love carrots!

On a slightly tangential note, I had a friend in Egypt who kept rescued tortoises, most of whom were endangered.  When they have sex, they moan and groan like they are starring in a porn movie.  It was the most hilarious noise I had ever heard; although the tortoises took love-making very seriously.  I suppose you would, if you were endangered.

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A Dire Wolf moved in…

Image by Veirgacht

On a typical hot, steamy night in our swamp, I woke up to find that Teddy had transmogrified into Shrek, snoring as only an ogre can.  My industrial strength ear plugs had fallen out so I sleepily tread the well-worn path to the front bedroom at the other side of our hovel.  I fell asleep almost immediately only to wake in the wee hours needing to use the bathroom.  The toilet tissue was running low so I blithely reached into the cabinet under the sink to get a new roll.  Then I saw her, screamed and gently shut the door.  She looked at me with the same horror.  Yes, her eyes were that big.  It was my first tree roach of the season.  Let’s call her Teresita.

For those of you who don’t live in the south of Texas, we have something much scarier than our alligators, water moccasins and recluse spiders.  My fear was such that it may as well have been a Dire Wolf, most recently of Game of Thrones, but actually an extinct giant wolf.  Tree roaches are really large roaches that FLY!  If you do a Google search for Tree Roaches Texas you will find endless hilarious stories of newcomers who firstly can’t believe the size of the critters (mine was about 2 inches long) and then their horror when the beast flew towards them.  Their true name is the American Cockroach and they are not quite as filthy as German Cockroaches, the regular smaller ones that you see up north. Ours wear MAGA hats. In Florida they call tree roaches Palmetto bugs as a way to fancy them up.

I went back to bed with trepidation because the last time I found a tree roach it was under my pillow (shudder) in that front bedroom.  The wisest action was not to look and I fell into a troubled sleep.  The next morning, I started removing everything from the bathroom cabinet.  There was mouse sized Tree Roach poop everywhere!  Just as I removed the 12th toilet roll (it is hurricane season and we are fully stocked), the monster jumped out at me.  I screamed again but was mad as hell that it had pooped all over everything so I attempted to crush her.  She scuttled back into a hole behind the cabinet or should I say Cockroach Condo.  Dang it!

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This is not my hand!

Eventually I emptied everything and washed the plastic bottles in bleach, the rest went in the trash.  The inside of the cabinet was cleaned with neat bleach and then I found the deadly bug killer to spray in the hole.  Usually I use a completely ineffective ‘green’ bug spray that a Tree Roach would use for salad dressing.  I like to live in harmony with all God’s creatures but the roaches have to stay outside.  Then I called the bug man – who is afraid of Tree Roaches.  Now that’s exposure therapy.  His favorite Macho tale is when he first encountered Tree Roaches on a military base.  He was in a storage shed and he saw three Tree Roaches blocking the doorway.  ‘No problem’, he thought, ‘I can just stomp on them’.  Not if they fly in your face – then you run out screaming like a girl.

I considered calling the bug man earlier when we had a millipede invasion all over the larger Houston area.  Every day I rescued or swept up dozens of millipedes.  They are harmless and don’t scare me so I just ignored them.  Maybe all the rainy weather has created a glut of them.  When they die, they curl up in a little ball and it looked like a fossil extinction zone in every corner of the house.  The spiders tried their best to help me out and every web was filled with millipedes.  When you live in Texas you need to love your spiders because they catch the other stuff!  The Dire Wolf under the sink provoked a spring cleaning like none other.  Then I discovered another dead tree roach in a kitchen cabinet so all the pots had to be washed.

Working my way around the kitchen cabinets, I finally found sugar ants had got into the sugar.  Really??  Don’t you think I had been through enough?  My O.C.D. was boiling into a crazy ferment.  Sugar ants are harmless too but it was three species too many.  The hovel house is now very, very clean and there are no bugs.  It was a rather expensive visit from the Dire Wolf (and friends) by the time I paid the bug man and restocked the toilet rolls, tissue, cotton wool and sugar.  One of my neighbors had a blue tongued Skink living in her garage – they look like truncated snakes with very wide bodies.  She was horrified that its poop had cockroach carapaces in it.  Please come and live with me, blue tongued Skink – free food and friendly humans.

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Blue Tongued Skink

Brunch

I was so fed up with sushi…

…that I thought I would wander into Kerry’s street and check out the lizards.  Found this delicious entree in the neighbors’ yard.

It put up a good fight.  I am 4 foot tall so it was a generous brunch.

Almost down the gullet…

Utterly delicious!

Don’t we all need a change in our brunch venue from time to time?  Especially when wearing our bright white feathers and a burnt orange beak.  I had just come back from grocery shopping when I spotted this great egret in the cul-de-sac.  Ran in to get my camera and voila!

Hope you are all enjoyed brunch on this beautiful sunny day in the sub tropics.  The egret normally lives at the containment pond at the end of our street.

Dancing, donating and dithering

Tree pollen means squinting eyes and no eye make-up…

Look at my new Retro jeans – took me straight back to the 70’s drunkenly trying to unbutton jeans in a disco.  I bought them in Walmart for full price because they fit so well.

These are my azaleas in full bloom so spring is here in SE Texas (it would be summer north of the Wall).  When the azaleas were first planted, they were exactly the same bright pink but I think the soil around one has changed because of its proximity to a pine tree.  The purplish one is underneath our Live Oak.  Isn’t nature wonderful?

Yesterday was a fun day!  I went to my local thrift shop and snagged a coral jean jacket, apple green shirt and brand new faux fur vest – all for $3.  That’s right, $1 each.  They were playing 70’s funk music and the girl behind checking was grooving on down so I joined her, swaying the hips.  She asked where I got my cute skirt and laughed when I revealed it was from Forever 51 21.  Then I taught her how to say Good Morning in Arabic (this segued naturally from a comment about my accent) and I think that’s why I got such an amazing bargain.  I also donated a beautiful quilt so it all works out.

The day before, I was shopping unhappily in Burlington because a gift card was burning a hole in my frontal lobe.  The shop was gigantic but I couldn’t find anything decent.  I noticed a little Central American girl looking loudly for “Papi!” I saw him in menswear and said to the little girl, “Papi, alli!”  Dad placated her but then she ran off wailing “Mami!” who was hiding elsewhere.  I understood their pain…

The previous week I had gone to a Premium outlet out of town, again because another bloody gift card was creating mental chaos.  I went into one store to get some stuff for Ted and was helped by a man?  He was very attractive, with long pink dreads which coordinated with his cute little white wool shorts and sweater and long fuchsia jacket.  His long black legs went on forever with size 11 pink pumps.  I have no judgment, just curiosity, especially since he didn’t have fake boobs.  Then I saw him helping a Mexican man who, by his reaction, thought the assistant was a woman.  Life is interesting these days.

To top my shopping mania, I browsed through Macy’s after the thrift store snag.  At the clearance racks I came across two black ladies getting on down with some more 70’s funk (is there a musical plot in our forest?) so I started dancing with them.  Why not?  The world has gone mad with such sadness in New Zealand.  May they rest in peace.

On a lighter final note, we bought Toffee a new knitted catnip toy at the weekend.  I forgot it was in my purse but delighted Toffee with a new toy.  She rolled and purred.  Then she made a new LOUD vocalization which sounded a little like “I have done the stinkiest poo” but there was a note of elation.  We think it was meant to be Captain America bird but since Toffee is from Egypt he has a new name every day –

  • Captain Ahmed
  • Captain Amun
  • Captain Ali
  • Captain Azim
  • Captain Abdul

I could go on and on but that’s exactly what this post is – a quirky Kerry rambling.  For clarity, I am petering off my anti-depressants because of side-effects and under the care of my psychiatrists.  Let’s just say I am a little ‘happy’ and ‘tense’ all at the same time.  Teddy thinks it is an alluring combination!

 

The Rocking Stones of Auchmaliddie

Last week I was in Texas, minding my own business, when I commented on Ailish Sinclair’s site about Standing Stones in Scotland. I told her that I remembered a beautiful white quartz recumbent stone in the field next to our rented cottage near New Deer in Scotland. At the time, the site was barely noted historically but via Ailish I discovered that they are two of the Rocking Stones of Auchmaliddie.  It was a strange moment, like the notorious series Outlander, but much cooler. I was instantly transported back to the prettiest house we have ever lived in with so many happy memories.

Puss, the hunter, at the cottage

For all the non-Scots, the Scottish Standing Stones were believed to be constructed by the Pictish people or their precursors, mostly in the North East of Scotland starting in Neolithic times. Stonehenge is a magnificent example of a similar but much bigger Standing Circle. They are found all over the south west of England, Wales, Brittany and Scotland. The people of those areas were among the earliest tribes in Britain. Not much is known about the Picts and their written language was Runic so there is a limit to our understanding. The Gaelic people were the next settlers and there language overtook the Pictish one. Certain names date back to the Picts and you can recognize them by their prefix – Aberdeen and Pitmedden are two examples. By contrast Auchmaliddie has a Gaelic root. The Picts’ name for Scotland was Alba.

We were renting the cottage at Auchmaliddie while our new house was being built in a neighboring village. Although we had been living in a hamlet previously, this was right out in the Boonies. I had to persuade the farmer to allow us to rent as the previous tenants with dogs had really damaged the cottage. As soon as we moved in, I wished we could have bought this sweet cottage instead of our new bungalow. It was blissfully quiet with gentle lowing of the cattle. That summer was particularly warm so we didn’t realize how cold and damp the cottage was. It was so hot that we had to leave the bedroom window open (that doesn’t happen in the North East of Scotland because winter is always coming beyond the wall).

Our three cats had rarely been allowed out in our last house as we were on an arterial road. At the cottage they could roam free. Pippy, our difficult cat, loved to climb out the open bedroom window, scamper down the tree and sleep with the dairy cows in the barn at the neighbor’s dairy farm. There were a glut of voles (in the US they are called meadow mice) that year and even our tooth challenged baby Puss caught one. I have a funny memory of Teddy chasing her in circles around the cottage to make her drop the vole. We had rescued Puss the year previously – she was feral and full of worms. It took so long to get her healthy that Ted was determined that she drop the dratted worm infested vole. On the way back from one of the circuits, I noticed that Puss was voleless. Cleverly, she had dropped the vole in the potato patch. Teddy searched futilely for the now deceased vole but Puss found it later and ate it much to Teddy’s disgust. He gets all OCD about parasites… wuss.

I remember when we discovered the Rocking Stones on a summer evening walk to the next field at the top of the hill. The sparkling white of the quartz recumbent stone was otherworldly. Bronze age or Neolithic folks had celebrated or worshiped on this very spot and could see the next set of Standing Stones at Aikey Brae from the summit. My first secret thought was that blood sacrifices would look spectacular on the white stone. There was no record that they did that but it was the first hint of my native Mexican blood running thought me, perhaps?? I thank Ailish for sparking a long lost memory and inspiring a series of blogs set at the cottage.  As far as I know, I did not know Ailish in Scotland even though we lived just miles apart. It is a marvelous small world.

Silvery pixie, fur ball and furry slippers

Oh oh! Look at all that silver in my new pixie cut! I think I will embrace it for now but expect another blog with some wacky hair color as I get bored… This blog should probably come under the heading ‘another quirky Kerry rambling’.

When I was photographing the pelicans at the containment pond, I discovered a huge fur ball (or possibly scat).

Was it a bobcat, a coyote or the Great Horned owl? I would really like to have poked around in it for clues but that sort of weird behavior upsets Teddy… I am not ready to be put in a home, please wait until I have to wear diapers.  It won’t be long.

Speaking of weird behavior, I was driving Teddy to brunch as I do every Saturday, when I noticed a brand new sports car alongside me with an offensive sticker. Let’s just say that he probably doesn’t like folks south of the border. They have the same problem in Scotland…😁 As we stopped at traffic lights, I edged closer so that I could peer at the driver. I did it twice to get a good look and he was a Caucasian with a Hezbollah beard. Once he realized I was staring, he started to get nervous. At the next lights I decided to have fun and rolled down my windows. By chance, I had been playing some Spanish hip-hop in the car and turned it up as loud as it could go (pretty loud in my coupe). When the lights went red, he raced off like a bat out of hell with my cackling in his ears. Teddy just shook his head.

A few days later, I was waiting in a line at the lights when I noticed a lady screech to a halt beside me. Her side panel was already beaten in. She emerged from the car like a Latino mountain woman, wearing a large red plaid sheet shirt and black furry slippers. Then she ran up to the perp’s car in front (who presumably had cut her up) and shook her fist, yelling something. She stomped back to her car, or as much as you can stomp in furry slippers, and reached into the car. Uh oh! Was she reaching for an AK-47? It was just her pink shimmery phone to take photos of the perp’s licence plate. Inside I was saying, “You go girl!” because I am sick to death of impatient, disrespectful drivers. This is Texas – drive friendly folks (or at least funny). 🤠

So, why was the trip to the Canyon so bad?

Given that I am going to show you some great photographs, what was wrong with my Grand Canyon trip?  I am cheap, thrifty and love a bargain.  Therein lies the problem; busy flight to Vegas paid for by Teddy’s miles.  I considered a helicopter ride to the canyon but decided to use my ancient British Airways miles for a prepaid tour bus to the western rim of the Grand Canyon.  It sounded so marvelous: comfortable tour bus; wonderful guide; lunch on the Tribal Land of the Hualapai viewing the Skywalk.  Blah, blah, blah – all I saw was that it was free.  I blame my upbringing in Scotland.  Even better, they picked us up at our hotel.  They omitted to mention some critical facts.

  • We left at 5am
  • Then we went to a detention camp staging area
  • We queued endlessly for another ticket
  • Finally we went out to the cattle trucks luxury Greyliner double-decker buses

There were quite a few singles among the groups of tourists.  Another, very sensible, lady and I were last to get on my bus but there was only one seat left.  She decided to get the next bus; impatient Kerry got on the bus…from…hell.  My seat was in the middle of 5 seats in the very back row upstairs.  Somehow in all of this excitement I forgot that I have a congenital spinal problem and take medication for that.  In the row was a Spanish speaking family, obviously tourists, who looked unhappy that I was going to take up their extra space.  I was equally unhappy.

After we got underway with a very jolly guide, I attempted to converse briefly with my fellow guests.  I discovered they were from Costa Rica and then nothing.  That made me curious because almost all the Latin American guests that I meet at the airport are friendly and very polite.  I was certain they were not originally from Costa Rica.  They looked nouveau riche, not uncommon in our part of the world.  Before we even reached the Hoover Dam, the senora next to me was snoring on my shoulder.  Sigh.

Without revealing everything about the trip, I was relieved they did not know I could understand Spanish and by the time we returned to Vegas, my mind was whirling with nefarious plans for their demise.  I jest of course… but do I?  My conclusion about mi amigos was that they were Cartel.  Their bags and clothes were ludicrously expensive and didn’t seem to match their coarse language peppered with Puta and Pendejo.  I would guess that they originated in Mexico by their accent and looks.  They endlessly encroached on my limited space with no apology.  The final insult was passing candies across me to each other, without offering me one or a ‘disculpe’.

They were only part of the problem, however, and I was still relatively excited by the time we crossed into the Tribal lands, spotted Joshua trees and then finally glimpsed the canyon.  I don’t know if any of you have taken this particular route to the canyon but the Hualapai Nation have really gone to great lengths to satisfy the endless thirst of tourists.  There is the infamous Skywalk – you pay even more money to walk on it and then you cannot take any photographs.  You could have lunch at various places and shuttle buses regularly rotated between the Skywalk, the Wild West Show and the plain old canyon.

What is wrong with this image – the people!!!

Marriage to Teddy, who taught geological field-trips in Utah and Colorado, has given me the opportunity to see amazing natural wonders without so many tourists.  Although the Grand Canyon is the largest, it wasn’t the prettiest or most photogenic.  At the main viewing site, I felt constrained by having too many people around me, all trying to take dangerous selfies.  Without thinking about the consequences, I walked off into the road so that I could be alone.  Almost immediately I was corralled by a tribal guide who told me to stay within the invisible tourist perimeter.  There were very sensible health and safety reasons for that – the shuttles drove fast and I could have easily got lost or fallen off the edge.

Wandering off the Reservation

Lunch was not particularly appetizing but it did make me think about how difficult life would be on most tribal nations.  The bathrooms were clean but had a sign asking us to conserve water.  I wondered how often they had to drill new wells or was the water shipped in?  Even though I had another hour or so, I decided to head towards the shuttle back to base.  Alongside was a tent with tribal members selling hand-made trinkets.

One young man was just the image of my father.  Although our native DNA is from North West Mexico, it is pretty close to South West USA.  There were no borders before the Europeans arrived.  We started chatting and he told me that when the Hualapai Nation were given this land it was mostly useless.  As pretty as it is, there is no value in land that you can’t use.  It isn’t really suitable for crops or grazing.  Back in the day no one realized how valuable this type of tourism could be.  His sister Pearl had made the earrings I admired from Hematite, a healing stone in their culture.  I bought them for a friend who has cancer.  This was my favorite part of the trip, truly connecting with a real person from the canyon.

My father with his sister in the 1930’s

More to come soon…