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Turtles and Tortoises Page!

from Jim

LUKE, THE DESERT TORTOISE

One day in the spring of 1954, our next-door neighbor called over the fence to come and see what she had found. It turned out to be a young Desert Tortoise, maybe 3 inches in diameter. It was found walking across Los Feliz Blvd., which even then was a heavily traveled street in Los Angeles. She had rescued it and since we already had a menagerie of pets, she gave it to me. We named it Luke, the next in a line of pet turtles named Matthew and Mark, who had been the short-lived imported green pet-shop type of turtles.

We built a pen for Luke in a grassy area in the backyard. He seemed to like the dichondra and the "sheep sour" grasses and he was very partial to lettuce. I used to give him rides in my toy motorboat in the fish pond, but he did not go in the water. He was a total vegetarian and completely harmless. He liked to be gently stroked on the head when being held.

Around Labor Day he would begin digging a hole for hibernation. It was not a safe prospect to allow him to remain outside for the winter, due to possums, etc., that would come down occasionally from Griffith Park. We found an oval plastic pan and placed a clay flower pot in it. He would go into the pot like a burrow and we placed this is a dark corner of my bedroom closet. He would sleep there in hibernation until about St. Patrick's Day and then awakened and was ready to go back outside.

Fourteen years later, he was about 14 inches long and thriving. LaRae and I were on our way to get married in Lake Tahoe. She was terrified of turtles as a result of a traumatic experience with a snapping turtle when she was a
small child. We put Luke in his pan and pot into the back area of her VW bug to take him to my younger cousins who lived at Tahoe. It was the end of March, warm, and a long trip, so, on the road at 70+ mph, he started stirring and scratching at the pot with his nails. LaRae nearly went through the roof!

Tortoises can live to be up to 100 years old, so he's probably still alive and kicking somewhere.

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