Blog Post #9 (A True Tale)
My husband Brad is “The Lizard Whisperer.” That’s right. Lizard. Whisperer.
Living here at my father’s house, Brad hasn’t been able to have his preferred menagerie: dog, cat, horse…. so he has settled for the next best thing: whatever there is. He made and mounted wooden feeders for the squirrels on the block wall surrounding the yard, and hung sugar water for the hummingbirds. Although he isn't crazy about the *mockingbird that sings outside our bedroom window while we're trying to sleep, he would welcome its companionship and musical medley the rest of the day. I'm grateful he hasn't chosen to befriend other critters that have happened into our yard: opossums, skunks and a hive of bees. He is interested in them, however, watching and studying their behavior.
Brad is nature’s son, loving and respecting animals and nature. He’s the kind of guy that turns over rocks to see what’s underneath, feeds and waters the horses before eating his own breakfast, and takes a whole roll of film of his Golden Retriever posing in El Dorado Canyon, Colorado. He saves every drop of water, and is expert at making campfires under a tree in the snow. I love and admire all these things about him, partly because they are what I am not.
|Brad's dog, Kona, posing in El Dorado Canyon, Colorado|
|Another picture of Kona in El Dorado Canyon |
(Imagine how many pictures he might have taken if he owned a digital camera at that time)
Brad is also one of the most resourceful people I’ve ever met. And frugal. He doesn’t waste anything. If he finds something lying around, he’ll put it to good use in a way nature didn’t intend. It seems reasonable, then, that when he found lizards lying around, —which is what they do—he put them to use in a way nature didn’t intend.
I realize many people keep lizards and other reptiles as pets. Brad doesn’t bring them in the house. (Just let him try it!) Nor does he keep them in a cage or case. He hates seeing dogs on leashes, and horses tethered (unless he's riding one). With liberty and justice for all lizards, they roam our yard, emerging from their hiding places between the shed and the block wall, from holes between rocks and from under the barbecue to sun themselves on the pavement. But they pledge their allegiance to our yard--all because of The Lizard Whisperer.
Our lizards are quite normal. As is common, they like to show-off their strength and dexterity by doing two thousand push-ups at a time on the block wall. When the grandchildren attempt to catch them, they demonstrate their quick reflexes and speed, by darting off on their short little legs, faster than speeding bullets, like grounded Supermen—capes flowing in the breeze.
Exceptionally normal lizards, really. Except for one thing: The Lizard Whisperer.
Brad has spent hours doing yard work, cleaning-up and restoring Daddy’s yard to some of its former utility and beauty, and tending our vegetable garden. He has spent a lot of time observing, (and being observed by) the lizards. They’re curious, and suspicious, creeping out from their hiding places, always warily keeping their distance, as if they weren’t sure they heard IT call out “Olly Olly Oxen Free!” Like fleet-footed scouts, they zip away with lightning speed if startled.
|Garden where the lizards and T.L.W. often meet|
Methodically, Brad began testing the lizards. Finding small bugs he knew looked like thick juicy steaks to the lizard watching a few feet away, he set the tiny wiggling insect a small distance off to see if a lizard would take the bait. Gradually, he moved the bait farther away from the lizards, discovering their Superman speed is only rivaled by their remarkable eyesight. From great distances, they raced like sleek tailed-dragsters to beat other lizards to the free eats.
Not only were the lizards watching Brad, but so was I. One day I noticed him scouting around the wall and shed area. His movements were a little odd, so I asked the obvious: “What are you doing?” Nothing. (He was focused on what he was doing.) After a few minutes, I gave up and went inside, but watched from the window. He crouched down, waiting. He is good at waiting. I’m not; I stopped watching.
One day he told me he was going to ride his bike to the new sporting goods store around the corner. He’s an umpire, so I thought he might check out the baseball gear. After he got home, a new little white plastic container appeared, first on the dryer in the garage, and later in the fridge. “What’s that?” Nothing. Later, I reached for a tub of margarine from the fridge. “Not margarine. Mealworms!” I’m onto him now! He’s been purchasing mealyworms to feed the lizards! The small white container the store provided must not have been large enough, so the mealworms graduated to a roomier margarine tub, and to an air conditioned place in the fridge. (This was either for Brad's convenience, or for the comfort of the mealworms. Not sure which.)
|What I found in the fridge|
What next? I’ll tell you…
He’s kneeling down, arm outstretched, hand open on the ground. Something small and wiggly on his palm. Yoga position? No. A lizard is standing on the pavement about four or five feet off. He’s having a stare-down with Brad. The mealworm’s destiny lies in the balance. Lizzy creeps closer, keeping a weather eye out for danger. Keeps creeping. He’s in Brad’s hand. Grabs the worm and takes off. Score!
History repeats itself, but this time the lizard comes from the block wall. Brad's hand outstretched, waiting.
Word gets out through the lizard grapevine. Other lizards line up for the dole. (I don’t know how they pass the word, but I’m sure they do.) They’re eating out of his hand, some nibbling at his toes. A lizard in hand is worth two behind the shed.
One day, Brad was walking around the shed, scrutinizing the side near the wall with particular interest. “What are you doing?” Nothing. I stayed, waiting. Suddenly, like a Close Encounter of the Lizard Kind, one by one, half-a-dozen lizards appeared out of the darkness cast by the shed’s shadow on the block wall. Others came from the holes in the top blocks along the wall to the right. Brad waited, arm outstretched, mealy worms in his open palm close to the wall. Soon, lizards were jumping off the wall into his hand, grabbing a worm, and jumping back onto the wall again, taking turns getting the worms. Two worms each, Brad kept track. Amazing!
|Brad tempting lizards with plump, juicy mealworms. |
You can see them coming out from behind the shed (upper middle of picture).
Since then, most of the lizards in our yard seem to know Brad. They aren’t tentative in the least, openly approaching him for mealworms. Like feeding chickens, he makes his normal rounds after work each day. They are comfortable walking onto his hand to eat: a drive-through café for lizards.
Last week, a very plump, familiar lizard was lying on the sidewalk near the back door. Too many mealy worms, I thought. Later that day, Brad asked if I saw the pregnant lizard. (Yup. That was her.) Poor thing. She looked as if she had swallowed a small mouse. Not long after, she was fit and thin again. Her clutch of eggs must be hidden somewhere nearby, and before long, we should have a lounge (appropriately named) of baby Lizzies lounging around waiting for Brad to befriend, coddle and feed them.
I walk out the back door; two hopeful lizards are waiting there—like miniature furless, long-tailed puppies, anxious for me to pet and feed them. I’m not the one they want. I’m only his wife. But those little guys know the hand that feeds them: The Lizard Whisperer.
|Western Fence Lizard (or Spiny Lizard)|
For a split second, I see through their lizard eyes:
The Lizard Whisperer rides off on his white horse into the sunset.
|The Lizard Whisperer |
(Had a picture of him on the white horse; missed the sunset)
*See blog post #7 "For the Birds"
© Copyright June 10, 2014