Gocko, the Legendary Turtle
When I was a young boy, I wanted a dog. But I remember that dad told me they were messy and cost too much money and besides they ate too much. Well, I certainly don’t recall any dog I’ve owned ever eating more than me and their food was much cheaper than mine. So, what did I get for my first pet? A turtle. You can be assured that a box turtle that can easily be found outside (well, that used to be the case, but now? I don’t know. Probably not) quite easily and without much trouble at all. In the nineteen fifties, that’s when I was a youngster by the way, a turtle could be found in nearly every yard, in walking distance from my house, including my own. Oh, yes, and not to boast too much but in boy scouts we went for a ten-mile hike and even though our scout master Stan had a little bit of a tough time…ten miles is a breeze for a little kid. Well, little boys anyway. Girls I doubt could be bribed to walk ten miles in those days, even with a new Barbie doll. My wife was in the Brownies and Girl Scouts and I don’t remember her ever talking about any hikes, except to get the paper at the end of the drive way, and that is because she lived in the Kansas country side. Even the end of the driveway was over a hundred yards away. Nobody ever left the yard except for her dad and he drove to work and back. But I digress and totally got off on the wrong tangent.
So, like I said before, dad got me a turtle. A turtle! Okay so I made the best of it. A turtle was a living creature, after all. I’m sure they belong to some prehistoric clan of critters. They just aren’t soft and cuddly like a dog. Dogs like to give hugs and kisses. Try getting a kiss from a turtle and you will pay the price. Just like my cousin did. He was totally terrified of it after it bit him on the eyelid and wouldn’t let go for more than ten minutes. I giggle and chuckle, whenever I remember the “episode of the eyelid.” My cousin didn’t like the fact that the little box turtle had shut himself up inside that hard shell and wouldn’t come out. So, you guessed it. He proceeded to put the turtle up in front of his eyes and look through the little crack at the front, where the turtle beak is. (Why do they call that a beak when it is clearly not a bird?) Any one read “Origin of the species?” Maybe that guy would know. The first thing a turtle does when you pick it up is to pee on the offending and obnoxious little doofus that can’t keep his hands off. When that doesn’t work, heh heh, well out comes that snapping little beak on that long pencil thin neck. Where, of course my cousin’s eye was. Fortunately, it only grabbed his eyelid and not the eyeball itself. It was horrifying and hilarious at the same time. I know, I’m getting off track again, but it occurs to me that I had the same guffawing horse laugh on other occasions of his ineptitude. I need to advance a few years into the future for another one of those stories. Well, to say I need to as opposite to uh, want to, that is an incorrect statement. Oh, I want to alright and I will, because I can. He was always such an awkward kid, that cousin of mine. He was always falling from trees and pulling gravel out of his knees from falls on the playground. He has scars all over his pasty white skin. I say that because he was always afraid to get sunburned. To keep from getting too much of Sol’s rays he would wear an Australian bush hat, long sleeve shirts and long pants. While the rest of us dressed for enjoying our day outside, he always looked like he was ready for battle. The poor kid always had knee and elbow pads on when he rode his bicycle, Whoo hah! That kid was a laugh a minute, but the real funny part is that he never tried to be funny. He was as serious as a minister’s sermon on Sunday. He shinnied up a tall skinny pole once and then couldn’t get back down and kind of looked like a monkey had climbed up a flagpole. So, after taunting him for thirty minutes, his two older brothers began rocking and swaying the pole back and forth. I was afraid the thing was going to break at the base. Nope, it didn’t happen. The pole was not in concrete but just dirt packed in the hole around it. So, I’m standing on the sideline laughing like crazy with him hanging on to that pole, like a bird caught in a windstorm. So funny, I got teased later by the older boys, because I peed my pants, when I laughed so hard and for such a long time. So, finally the pole gets to swirling around in a circle like a swizzle stick in a cocktail glass and his two brothers yell at me to come and help. So, I did. No sooner had I gotten there then he fell off and luckily landed on a pile of soft dirt nearby. But, as was the custom, nobody in the family was a squealer. The other cousins ran off and hid somewhere, which left me there with the little monkey from the tree. I thought he would later point fingers at his older brothers. Typically, I got blamed for it and a spanking.
So, to clear up the story of my first pet, we need to go back to the part of the story that had the turtle. He was a turtle with no name. I was given the job of naming the little bumpy critter, but no. My cousin butts in and calls it Myrtle, get it? Myrtle the turtle. While I will admit it was an extra cute name, I wanted to name it Gocko. Now, you can laugh and wonder how the heck I came up with that or just marvel at the workings of a young mind. The perfect name, I thought, Gocko. So, as a pet he didn’t last too long. I was always busy playing outside and
never feeding the thing. Although, I did throw a few dead flies in the fish tank where we kept him. That was another possible mistake. He was a ground turtle with the larger part of his fish tank was water. Uhh, not good right? Anyway, while I was outside playing in the snow one cold winter day, mom decides she had enough of turtles in the house. What did she do with it? Not sure, but she claimed to put it in the dirt floor crawl space, under the house. I was under there many times in the years past and never did I see a turtle or its shell. We did spend many years looking for him. Thus, began the legend of “Gocko, the Turtle.” Legend has it that he lived for many decades in that dank and dark crawl space, eating spiders, crickets and various other bugs. I personally think he was a master escape artist and climbed out one of the open windows. Who knows? Furthermore, does anyone really care? Nope. It was a turtle for goodness sakes. Well, maybe I’m wrong. Like I said it was just a turtle.
Well, seems like in my life anyway, there was always some type of critter in the house that we called our pet. I don’t think I asked my friends as children how many pets they had or had been through. That’s one thing we never lacked though, pets. Like I said earlier Gocko was the first. I found and kept that turtle because dad didn’t think I or my cousins who lived with us, were ready for a real live animal for a pet. I have a sister too, but she came along much later in our lives and was not privy to the hardships of kids in the fifties. If it wasn’t a hot sultry summer without air conditioning, then it was snow up to your crotch and bitter cold winters in our tiny little house. One such early spring, my dad had a brilliant idea. He would strike a bargain with a local farmer and trade him out of two white ducks. We (us boys, not my folks of course,) would feed and water those happy quacking little balls of fluff and then by Thanksgiving time the ducks would be ready to be eaten. Great idea, right? Yes, at least dad thought so. I don’t think it played out quite as well as he planned. But it darned sure made for good memories and backyard stories when Beth and I have our campfires and cookouts. I can regale her with a multitude of stories of all my childhood animal friends. Anyone that reads this is invited to share our campfire and add to the stories of children and childhood.