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FullSizeRender-1My bike ride took me along the Buffalo Bayou.  The sun was beating down, rising higher in the easter sky and intensifying its heat.  There was reason to finish up the ride just to beat the Houston heat but something made me slow down and make an unscheduled stop.

From a distance I saw something that was not a normal part of the landscape.  My scanning the horizon and enjoying the views stopped short.  Like radar locking on to target I automatically started to slow down.

There on the grassy field was a lump standing higher than the freshly cut lawn.  It was the only protrusion making for an obvious oddity.  Over the hill was the water in the Bayou.

Now, I was close enough to identify the surprise.  It was a turtle.  I looked at him and he made me smile.

Its tiny head was protruding from beneath its very strong shell.  I don’t know how well a turtle’s eyesight is but it was definitely having some eye contact with me.  Maybe I was intimidating like most humans who tower over these amphibians.

Slowly but deliberately it drew in its legs.  Its head shrank back a little too.  Now its house of defense protected most of it if I was a real threat or danger.

Someone must have cut the grass recently.   Shavings were sprinkled over its back.  The design on its shell was now decorated with foliage and giving it a comical appearance.  I smiled even more.

I got closer.  My movements were slow.  I did not want to scare, just photograph it.

Now, its image is tucked away in my phone.  I left it alone never having touched or disturbed it.  From a distance on my bicycle I could just make out its slow and deliberate movements.

This turtle was heading some where.  It wasn’t in a hurry.  It couldn’t be even it wanted to.

Maybe as it crept along, it reminds all of us Houstonians to take our time in the hot humid summer days.  Moving at a turtles’ pace may have the merits of making life in the hot south much more manageable, don’t you think?  It was a least worth a long smile, right?

photo credit: brucefong cellphone photography

FullSizeRenderMy backyard is relatively unused.  During our first few years as homeowners I have used the backyard a few dozen times.  Most of the time those were spent on our small 8×10 slab where my smoker/grill is parked.

The grassy well-irrigated lawn does not have my foot prints on it much.  Occasionally, I have ventured out there to play around with archery.  But, the range is limited to 20 yards so it is not really adequate to that hobby.

Our gardeners use the yard much more than we do.  Their use is limited to cutting the grass.  Twice we have had them clear out and straighten up our flower beds.

Aesthetic values are first for our yard.  We like looking at it from inside of our house.  Everything is neat, attractive and pleasing to the eye.

Now, make no mistake, I can imagine a more useful backyard. Move us into the country and take down the wall and fencing and we have a positive improvement.  Back up our property line to a massive forest or thousands of acres of undeveloped woods.

Make sure that there are plenty of Oak trees scattered about that will drop innumerable acorns and give the flocks of turkey a place to roost for the night.  Allow for groves of low hanging bushes so that the deer have a place to call home.  Lease enough acres for gentlemen farmers to plant crops that give pheasants good habitat.

Make sure that there are enough ponds scattered to attract waterfowl, sustain several species of warm water fish and give the beavers challenges to build their dams.  Once the dams are built and the lush water grasses flourish, maybe moose will filter into the region.  Allow a few deep ravines to carve out a place for elk to roam.

This is a backyard to thoroughly enjoy.  God’s creation at its best is just outside of my porch will give decades of entertainment.  Living off of the land will not just be a hobby but a choice of life.

On a brisk Autumn day, I could see bundling up, rocking on a chair with a cup of hot cocoa in one hand.  Movement catches my eye.  Slowly, I bring up my binoculars to my line of sight.

A herd of deer are grazing through the woods.  The dominant doe is alert.  Behind the herd is a massive buck looking for love.  I smile and my dream breaks off because it is time to go to work.

photo credit: brucefong photography

God created it to be a predator.  It’s on top of the food chain in its wilderness environment.  Everything about it is designed for hunting.

It has stealth capabilities that makes it virtually undetectable by most living creatures.  This hunter can pad quietly at a swift pace, quickly covering ground between it and its next prey.  But, when it needs to be, it can wait motionless for long periods of time, tuning its sense of hearing, eyesight and smell to pick up all the data it needs to make an effective strike.

When a mountain lion chooses its prey, that animal has entered into a danger zone that many creatures have never survived.  Like a hundred tightly wound springs, this cat launches itself at its prey and systematically brings home its dinner with an efficient bite to the jugular.  Razor sharp claws pins the animal down.

But, when civilization crowds the habitat of the cougar, a battle will ensue that the cat will never win.  One cougar found how easy it was to slip and live among humans.  It stayed out of sight and hunted only at night.

Townspeople noticed the disappearance of family pets.  Dogs and cats were disappearing in steady numbers.  Wildlife officials were suspicious of a rogue mountain lion.

Investigation with patrols and night vision goggles confirmed their suspicions.  Citizens were warned to keep their children and pets indoors.  Eventually the cat was hunted successfully and the threat was neutralized.

Another mountain cat in Nevada was heading for danger as well.  He was a powerful beast.  Swift-footed and skilled in hunting he clashed with humans too.

He was hit by a car while crossing the highway at night.  His back hind legs were immobile.  Veterinarians  came into to help.

Today, this majestic beast is living out its life at an animal sanctuary.  He is separated from the towns and suburbs where he was prowling for a meal.   Nearly fully recovered his mobility keeps him out of trouble.  He has a pass from further conflicting clashes with humans.

Yet, his majestic presence is unmistakable.  He is still a lean hunting machine.  It is part of his DNA.  He can’t change that nor can it be changed for him.

Today he lies under his shade tree, spies the humans who visit the sanctuary and wonders why his life is so regimented.  He wants to roam and hunt.  But, that desire is lost forever.  He gets to live instead.

photo credit: brucefong photography