Leapin’ Lizards

I’ve been fascinated by blue-tailed lizards ever since I was a kid. Whenever I’d see one sunning on the concrete block foundation of the barn or on a big rock near the fencerow, I’d stand still, mesmerized. Hoping I didn’t spook it, I’d bend over slowly and lean in for a closer look. The brilliant colors, the long stripes running from nose to rump, the quick movements: everything about them seemed exotic, mysterious. And, like anything long and slinky, a bit scary. Especially when they move suddenly.

I’d heard that if you grabbed one by the tail, the tail would break off and they’d grow a new one. I never tried it to see. Not because I was afraid, of course, but, ahem, rather because of my abiding concern and respect for all things living. Especially the ones that might bite.

Our place here has turned out to be a fine spot for someone who likes looking at blue-tailed lizards. We have one or two that frequently show up near the back door, usually near the foundation of the house and often darting along the edge of the stone border of the planter that runs along the south side of the house. Two days ago, while I was pulling up big rocks out of the ditch to use on another landscape project, I uncovered a little fellow only a few inches long. I think I saw the same one near the same spot when I went back later for a couple more rocks. Cute little guy, really.

Yesterday, I met some more of my little friends. It was a rather informal situation, actually, and quite spontaneous.

It’s that spontaneity that always gets me about meeting reptiles. If the meeting had been mutually arranged with sufficient advance notice, it would seem a bit less jolting. It’s those sudden confrontations that really get me going.

Like much of life, we sometimes feel barely able to handle what we knew was coming. Thankfully, even those events that seemed most startling at first eventually work out for our good and getting over the surprise is a big first step toward realizing we will survive. Dealing with an unexpected lizard showing up between your feet is a lot easier than recovering from a car wreck or falling off a ladder. Given a choice, I’ll go with the lizard encounters.

In this case, it was the continuation of the landscape project.

I’ve been building a gravel-based area along the south side of our garage. It extends from underneath the birch trees on the east end to near the cedar trees on the west end. My plan is to have Randa help me arrange my collection of old rusty artifacts in the multi-colored creek stones that I’ve placed in behind the natural stone retaining edge.

For the past couple of months, those rusty artifacts have been stashed in a tight cluster within the shade of the birch trees. One of said artifacts is an old, very rusty little metal box with a wooden bottom. It’s about six inches wide, twelve inches long and four inches deep. It has a very rusty lid and probably functioned as a toolbox on an old tractor or horse-drawn implement in an earlier life.

Before I moved it off of the big, very rusty tool chest on which it has rested quite comfortably for the past two months, I lifted the lid. The seven-inch long lizard inside appeared to be at least as surprised as I was. It darted around and then quickly retreated to the farthest corner. That’s a bit relative in a box that’s only a foot long but I guess it’s a measure of degrees when suddenly confronted by a creature that’s about a thousand times larger than you. I found a degree of security myself by quickly closing the lid. What to do, what to do?!!

I picked the box up and carried it over to the gravel bedding and set it down. Curious as to whether or not the new resident had stayed for the journey, I opened the lid again. Yep, still there. Wait a minute, nope, he’s not. He slithered out through the knothole in the bottom of the box and disappeared into the smooth-rounded rocks.

A few minutes later, I moved an old gas heater. It’s the prized centerpiece of the collection. Curved ends and top with intricate cast iron details accent the ceramic inserts that stand above the multi-ported gas burner. Overall, it’s about eighteen inches tall, two feet wide and eight inches deep. It weighs about thirty pounds, I guess and has been nested under the birch tree for nearly two years.

I bent over, lifted it up, and carried it about sixty feet away, close to the far end of the garage. I set it down hard and gave it a couple of extra twists and shoves to settle the feet into the gravel. Apparently, the final disruptions rather disturbed one of the heater’s secret residents. With another dose of that famous spontaneity, the biggest blue-tailed lizard I’ve ever seen mysteriously materialized about eighteen inches away from my hand. That rascal must have been over a foot long and had apparently been dining sumptuously in the shade of the birch tree.

With no conscious control on my part, my right hand mysteriously moved a few feet farther away from the lizard, taking a good part of me with it. Before I’d even had time to finish my gasp, I saw a second lizard appear on the top of the heater, about two inches from where my left hand had been.

Well, folks, I have to admit that I’m pretty well satiated on my blue-tailed lizard fascination for the time being. I think I may wait another day or two before I open that big toolbox.

H. Arnett


About Doc Arnett

Native of southwestern Kentucky currently living in Ark City, Kansas, with my wife of twenty-nine years, Randa. We have, between us, eight children and twenty-eight grandkids. We enjoy singing, worship, remodeling and travel.
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