Tanglewood wildlife

June 15, 2014 8pm
W/​S, NC

My Father’s-Day day start­ed a bit ear­ly. Fri­day, I was able to pick up the kids from school on their last day of school and so we head­ed out to Tan­gle­wood Park, an estate owned by the Reynolds tobac­co fam­i­ly now donat­ed to the coun­ty, and went on to Mal­lard Lake. I want­ed to take them out on the pad­dle boats. After some cajol­ing and then threat­en­ing to maroon them with the con­ces­sion-stand staff if they did not board the pad­dle boat, I got us under­way.

The lake sur­face is glass-smooth. It’s bro­ken only momen­tar­i­ly by the wakes of water-skeeters careen­ing, whizzing and spi­ral­ing out of the boat’s way; it’s like watch­ing time-lapse pho­tog­ra­phy of win­dow-frost form­ing and sub­li­mat­ing away. I only men­tion all this because Scar­lett is point­ing this out to me.

Jack and Mac are seat­ed in back watch­ing their own show, now and then ask­ing to go back­wards to look at some­thing clos­er, some­thing just under the water—nominally a gator but usu­al­ly just some branch or rock sub­merged and appear­ing to gen­tly bob, break­ing the sur­face preda­to­ri­ly.

We are all alone on the Lake except for a Great Blue Heron1 watch­ing us ped­al clos­er and clos­er, casu­al­ly dip­ping its head into the water and then look­ing side­ways at us. Even­tu­al­ly we get too close and with a flap or two of its wings it sails a few hun­dred feet away in ten sec­onds that took us 10 min­utes to ped­al across.

Scar­lett, of course, is up front and along­side me; she is furi­ous­ly ped­al­ing and try­ing to steer the boat along the shore and under­neath the over­hang­ing tree branch­es where the shade is cool­ing and wel­com­ing to us after being baked in our life-vests cross­ing the mid­dle of the lake, devoid of all breeze, the sun­light hit­ting us full-force.

We trawl along the shore­line qui­et­ly, eyes-peeled for any sur­face-sign of what lies beneath. The kids imag­i­na­tion are primed to be played with and so every ‘plop’, ‘ker­plunk’ or loud rip­ple becomes a shark swim­ming under­neath the boat— “You’re Gonna Need a Big­ger Boat,” I tell the kids— or a mys­te­ri­ous wave is real­ly a Burmese Python come north from Flori­da.

Even­tu­al­ly, even I start to believe what I’m telling the kids is in this lake, because at one point I see a pair of frog-legs the size of my arms zip by. Of course, none of the kids see it but they believe me. Soon, Mac sug­gests it’s time to head back to shore. Our hunt for Nessie over.

Get­ting off the boats, the kids then start walk­ing along the shore­line. We spot a tur­tle that is repeat­ed­ly div­ing under and then a minute lat­er pop­ping its head out, look­ing at us and then div­ing again, some­times pop­ping up clos­er, some­times far­ther from us and does appear to be sur­rep­ti­tious­ly tail­ing us. I don’t under­stand what I am see­ing until Mac asks if we can get some bread we brought along from the Jeep and soon the kids are chuck­ing grape-sized globs of bread at the tur­tle who is pluck­ing them from under­neath. Of course. Lots of kids come to this lake and this tur­tle knows it’s feed­ing time.

So for a few min­utes this goes on until I notice a cou­ple of ducks wad­dling towards us from over the hill near the playground—An Amer­i­can Perkin duck and a Wood duck. They are head­ed straight for us. Soon the kids are being aggres­sive­ly pan­han­dled by the pair, like sea­soned grifters work­ing Times Square. Again, lots of kids have been here and the ducks know a mark when they see one. They must have cleaned up the play­ground, work­ing the crowd and then saw us and decid­ed to check out the action. The ducks are not exact­ly vio­lent in their pes­ter­ing for bread from the kids, but if a duck can—and these two can—they con­vey a rough­ness, a coarse­ness, like two hobos on the lam.

To wrap up, we ran out of the bread and the ducks adiós us and we head to the play­ground and the kids find oth­er kids to play with and even Mac who tends to go solo plays well with oth­ers. The play­ground equip­ment is alter­na­tive­ly turned into a space­ship that has run out of fuel or a pirate’s ship run aground need­ing urgent repairs.

Envoyé de mon mini­Pad

  1. which I only thought lived in Ore­gon that I took as a good omen back then and take as such here now []