Tanglewood wildlife

June 15, 2014 8pm

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 adios 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 []