Category Archives: Nature

Sampson is Found!

My son went hunting this past weekend with some college friends and his best bud, a pooch named Sampson. He had adopted him during his first year of college over seven years ago, my first grand-dog.

The boys arrived at their friends ranch land and unloaded their gear to the air-conditioned cabin. Samson was out of sight but my son didn’t worry. Sampson liked to explore. But after unpacking he went to look for him. His friends had already started practice shooting. Sampson didn’t come when called. His friends joined him in the search. They spent the day searching. Sampson had disappeared.

He was something like a cross between a long-haired dachshund and a Chinese crested, long and low to the ground with not much hair except on the top of his head and on his chin. He ran with his jaw held crooked and his tongue hanging out and he could not hold his licker when anyone visited. He was just about the cutest ugly dog in the world.

It seemed that Saturday was one of those days when the bad news just kept coming. First the call about my husband’s aunt death. Then the emergency techs at the other end of my mother’s “life-alert” system called. My mother had fallen and couldn’t get up, could I go to her? Yes, we got to her and let the firemen into her apartment. She was alert but unable to move from a kneeling position, that’s as far as she could get from flat on her back. She fell when she thought she was grabbing the door jamb but missed and kept going. She was fine and we helped her get supper and settle for the night. Then when I texted my son about the happenings he texted me that Sampson was lost.

Texas is experiencing the worst drought in recorded history. I don’t hold out much hope that Sampson survived for long in the heat. Of all the day’s bad news and events, I think the little puppy getting lost forever in the Texas heat hit me the hardest. I guess the not knowing what happened is the worst part.

When my son was tiny and he lost his cherished teddy bear I told him Teddy went to Australia for a long vacation. It helped. It hurts that I can’t make up even the simplest solution to where Sampson is.

Today, being two days after Samspon was lost, is a red-letter day! Sampson has been found in Ledbetter, TX!

The Ferocity of Predators

A strange story about a hawk and a turkey.

It begins with the hawk I spotted soaring over our back yard. From the upper back porch I could watch the hawk fly between two huge pecan trees. Having lived near a hawk’s permanent nest in Sugar Land, I had the feeling the hawk for establishing territory for a nest. It may be there is already a nest in one of the trees. Even with the worst drought in recorded history in Houston, those pecan trees are thick with leaves.

Here it is, practically in the flat middle of the big city and that hawk was happy. Lots of prey – rats, pigeons makes it a good living space for a hawk.

I can tell you – watching the hawk that week after we moved brought such joy bubbling up. My sadness at leaving Sugar Land was finally in the past. I could mark the moment.

A week later my husband and I were walking to a little Mexican restaurant in the neighborhood. As we were fixing to turn the corner I saw something that ground me to a hot, dry halt. Fury, rage, frustration, all those things shot through me.

The hawk’s wings had been severed and were now hanging on a dumpster behind the flower shop.

It is illegal to shoot any bird of prey. But this was MY hawk. My hawk was dead. I knew I had missed something. I hadn’t seen the hawk flying lately. Throughout the evening whenever I thought of it, my stomach ached to DO something.

I called the Texas Parks and Wildlife as soon as I could. I was given the names and phone numbers of the warden. I called, left messages. Finally I called the TPW again and was given the number for the dispatch. I called that number and got through to a human. However I had the feeling that the lady at the other end of the line thought I was crazy.

“I’m reporting that a man shot a hawk,” I said.

“Did you see it happen?”

“No. But the wings are displayed on a dumpster. Like they’re pinned butterfly wings or something.”

“How do you know it is a hawk?”

“It’s either a hawk or an owl.”

“You say they are pinned? To a dumpster?”

“Well, he has them splayed out and held down with something.”

“I’ll have a warden call you.”

I gave her my name and number. I waited to hear. All day. Nothing. The next day. Nothing. I snuck down the street and took a picture. I didn’t want anyone to see me looking too interested. The owner of the flower business uses that lot behind him to practice his archery. That’s why I know it was him. He shoots at an archery target next to a fence that people are walking past. That’s crazy.

I called the Texas Parks and Wildlife again. Explained what I was calling about and asked why no one had called.

The dispatch lady on the other end said that it was the first time she was hearing about it.

“Well, the wings are still there,” I said.

“You say they are hawk wings?”

“Yes, the neighborhood hawk. It’s missing.”

“And where do you live?”

“In Houston, near downtown.”

“I’ll have a warden call you.”

Did she think I was crazy, too?  No one called. Ever. Now I’m mad.

What to do? What to do? In the cool of the evening the neighbors sit outside. I asked them if they’d seen the wings?

No, but they weren’t surprised. That guy at the flower shop, they told me, once hung a bunch of dead fish on his fence to chase away customers of a breakfast shop across the street from him. They said they would tell the neighborhood lady who is involved in wildlife rehabilitation. She would know what to do.

She told the neighbor to call the Texas Wildlife rehabilitation. He did. He came over this morning to tell me. He said the Texas Wildlife rehabilitation department called the Texas Parks and Wildlife and sure enough – a warden called my neighbor. Yes. He had seen the wings and yes, the owner of the flower shop would be getting a visit from him.

Ahhh. Justice.

The neighbor said that he has been assured that our names won’t come up. The flower shop guy is reputed to be nuts. He looks threatening with that bow and arrow. He could DO something.

This is the dumpster. What kind of bird did these come from? With the hawk missing what would you think?

And here’s a follow up. The neighbor told me this afternoon that the warden called him and told him that those are wild turkey wings and that the guy had a permit to kill a wild turkey. Opinion time. Do those look like wild turkey wings? AND where is my hawk? Overcome by the drought? The display remains macabre.

The Wind in the Cottonwoods

cottonwood arch
cottonwood arch (Photo credit: nuanc)

Daybreak strained through a thin sheet of clouds. I stood on the front porch. A fickle breeze gushed through the tops of the cottonwoods. It sounded like people clapping. A mixture of dread and anticipation made my stomach queasy.

It was September 11, 1961. My brother was seven days old.

We’d been listening to the radio all morning. News of the impending hurricane kept my brother and me home from school. I don’t know where my father or my older brother were. Maybe father went to work. He rarely stayed home from work. I wonder, now, if he and Bobby weren’t helping my grandparents at their home, tying things down, clearing their large yard of car parts and stacks of wood, though why my father wasn’t helping my mother with her tiny baby, I don’t know. Plus, we had our own loose car parts and stacks of wood in the back yard. And there was our wonderful swing-set. I was worried about the swing-set. Who was going to protect that?

My mother called me to come in when the first spattering of rain bit my skin. My anticipation became a trembling excitement. I wanted the big storm to come. It was different. Something new. Something to look forward to. I retreated into the front room and kept my face pushed against the window. I watched as scatterings of leaves danced across the pitted asphalt drive and out of sight. Where was my father? Was my brother Bobby at a friend’s house? My mother didn’t seem to know.

She didn’t seem to hear me much these days. She pressed the baby against her breast and looked sad. I didn’t worry for long, the storm was coming.

The window panes trembled with a rat-a-tat-tat. I pressed my fingers against them. The temperature outside had changed. It was cooler. The rain patted against the glass, coming at it sideways. The clouds were rolling in now, deeper and darker almost like the ocean’s waves as if the world were upside down. The tall trees were doing a jig. The wind only brushing their tops. We had big trees. When I hugged them my fingers didn’t quite touch on the other side.

My father had recently added on to our house with a family room big enough to skate in, and my parents now had their own room with an attached bathroom. So I no longer shared a room with my older and younger brother. I had a room of my own. When they asked what color I wanted the walls painted I said, “Aqua, of course.” And so the walls were aqua, with one wall of wallpaper with ballerinas dancing across it. Curtains to match. And my own closet. I was a princess.

In the process of adding on to the house my father dug trenches in the backyard for the sewer. Brother Jon and I had a wonderful time playing trench warfare. The pipes were only part of the hardship. Our creed was simple: The life of the soldier is tough. And don’t eat the dirt, no matter how hungry you get.

After the trenches were filled in the swing-set appeared. We were thrilled. Now we could swing up and see over the wood fence into the neighbor’s yard. The neighbor was a wicked witch for two reasons. Instead of a cat, she had a stupid beagle that bark-howled all the time. We beat on the fence to make it stop and it got worse. We hated that dog. She also had a huge wisteria bush that grew over into our yard, which was okay by me. It was a fort. But one day my older brother trimmed the vine and tossed the trimmings over into her yard and she screamed at him. That was the second reason why she was a witch. At least I think that’s what my brother called her.

The wind was getting wild by this time. The trees limbs whipped and punched at the ground. My mother pulled me from the window. We had to get on the floor in her bedroom. She pushed my baby brother under her bed a little while she kept an arm around me and my little brother. I was on the outside of that circle by choice, having scooted as far away as possible to keep an eye on the drama outside.

The color turned sickly, first greenish and then almost purple as the wind pushed against the one tree I could see. It lay almost sideways in the wind. The whistling noise grew into a low moan and then into a high-pitched howl. My little brother was fidgeting. He kept pushing against me. It made me mad and I pushed back. But every time I got mad enough to DO something to him, some other noise outside distracted me.

A window broke. I jumped. My mother held me down. She had curlers in her hair. She always had curlers in her hair. But on this day, some of them had come out and bits of her hair stuck out from the tight pin-curls everywhere else. It made my stomach sick when I saw the tears on my mother’s face. I asked about daddy and Bobby. She said don’t worry. I worried. The carpet smelled like baby powder and a strange mixture of dirty feet and the perfume my mother liked. “Intimate”.

Our house was built on a cement slab so we didn’t FEEL the wind inside the house but we could hear it like there wasn’t anything between it and us on the floor. It was like a wild animal trying to get in. I was scared. It seemed to go on forever. Then it stopped.

I jumped up. My mother said, don’t go outside but I ran, out into a changed world. The trees didn’t look so well, drooped to one side. Our sandbox was gone. The swing-set remained but the chains were wrapped around the other parts and our “carriage” the two person swing-part was twisted. Before I could look at much more the wind picked up. Why? My mother yelled. I zipped safely inside.

Back on the floor. My mother told me the “eye” had passed over us, that was only a short calm spot. Now the back side of the hurricane would have to go over us. SWEEP through was more like it. This time the tree I could see from the window twisted backward as the wind whistled into a frenzied howl that seemed louder than the first time. And it took longer. Worse. This wasn’t exciting, or fun. It was terrifying.

But it finally ended.

The days following the storm were cool and breezy, as if nothing had happened.

We came out of it with some broken glass and debris and rainwater on the floor. The baby was fine. My mother’s relief washed over all of us.

Now the exploring could begin. Outside was a wreck. Our garage leaned even more than ever. There was a handy hole in the back wall that we found useful when playing hide and seek. If you used the alley behind our house to count you could sneak a peek at what was going on through the garage.

Some of our fence had blown down. The part between the other neighbor and us, the cowboy neighbor. It took some months to get that fence up and so my brother and I watched as they brought a calf home from their ranch soon after the hurricane. The calf wouldn’t stand. They tried everything to get it to stand. They’d hold it up, prop it up. They even fed it from a bottle. Finally, they must have seen us watching and said something to my mother. She told us we had to come inside. My mother told us later they had to put it down because it couldn’t nurse. It made me ill worrying about that calf, thinking about that poor mama cow not knowing what was wrong with its baby.

I discovered where my father and older brother had been during the storm. They had at first decided to go down to our bay house to see to tying things down and getting the fishing poles, but they didn’t have time. And a good thing they didn’t go. The hurricane touched land a mile south of the bay house. That was where the storm surge was twenty feet. There was nothing left of that neighborhood except the bay house. All the pretty shingle houses – gone. Our ugly ramshackle wood house – fine. Much to my embarrassment, my uncle and father had allowed a tree to grow up through the eave of the roof. They simple added more roof around it. But this eyesore saved the house. While all the other homes were being washed away, leaving only brick chimneys to mark their former places, our house was lifted up and twisted around that tree and set down again. Except for the outhouse. IT was washed away. When they repaired the bay house, they added indoor plumbing. YES!

Instead of going to the bay house, they were caught by the fierceness of the storm at my grandparent’s house, not a mile from our home. It was fortunate they were there. A tree the size of Houston blew down, barely missing their home and while they sat inside praying for safety, the wind lifted their home right off its pier and beam foundation and set it down sideways in the yard.

I always loved the Wizard of Oz movie. I never disbelieved for a second that a twister couldn’t pick up a house and put it somewhere else.

Hurricane Carla was the largest category 4 hurricane to hit the Texas Gulf Coast to that date. Forty seven years later, Hurricane Ike rivaled Carla in size but not in strength. Though a killer, Ike was loosely woven and disorganized. Carla was tight and mean. Ike’s storm surge measured eight feet. Carla’s storm surge measured twenty.

A Fictional Short Story

English: A pice of chain link fence over some ...
English: A pice of chain link fence over some railroad tracks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Too much about diet details and I’m losing readers in droves, all three of them.

 

So here is a fiction story just for fun:

 

THE HOUSE NEXT DOOR

 

It might have been white once, but now the house was a flaky gray. It sat lopsided among the forest of trees next door. We’d only lived there a few weeks but my brother and I noticed the house right away. We wanted to know who lived there.

 

I wanted to climb the trees, build a fort, but how could I without knowing what kind of person lived there. Whether they minded or not. Wouldn’t want to go to all the trouble of building a mighty fort, only to have someone yell, or worse, tear it down. I had to know what we were up against.

 

My brother is a timid kind of kid. I let him hang with me but he isn’t what you’d call dependable in a fight, being the first to run away and all. But being the new kids on the block, and not knowing another soul our age, he was better than nothing.

 

“Stop laggin’ long behind me like a cat’s tail,” I said.

 

“Awwww – right,” he mumbled.

 

But my pep talk didn’t do any good, because he straggled along behind wherever we went, be it on foot or bike.

 

So with him at my elbow, I decided to re-con-noiter the next-door place. “What ‘at?” he asked when I told him what we were fixin’ to do. “It’s lookin’ to see what’s what,” I told him.

 

We snuck along the low fence between our two properties. We had a big wood fence along our back yard but that house had an old chain-link fence sagging this way an that, all the way from front to back of the property line.

 

In the deep green shadow of trees the little house seemed like a satisfied thing. It didn’t need anything or anybody. That’s how it made me feel when I studied it. It was satisfied. And creepy. I just had to know who lived there? And could we built a fort in their tree?

 

The trees were of the chinaberry kind. I think they’re really called tallow trees but that doesn’t make any sense at all. Why call a thing something it wasn’t when it had these real hard little seeds all over it that stung like fire if one was to get hit with one during a chinaberry war. We used to have wars in our old neighborhood. My brother never got hit much because he mostly used me as his shield but he had a good arm for throwing. I missed our old neighborhood even more thinking about it.

 

The yard next door hadn’t been mowed in I-couldn’t-tell-how-long, but the Queen Ann’s Lace was taller than me and there were patches of ragweed as tall as the old house where the sun struggled through the leaves and hit ground. Who would ever let their yard get into that kind ‘o condition was beyond me. There were some pretty things, too. Some red lilies encircled one tree up near the front of the house. The pungent wild onion were green, the shade so violent it hurt the eyes. We took a few days to watch the house.

 

It’s black eyes stared back.

 

Nothing was happening fast.

 

After two days of that, I said, “We’ve got to sneak around back.”

 

“What about dogs?”

 

“There’s no dog. We would-a heard it by now.”

 

“Well, er, cats?”

 

“What’s there to be scared o’ cats?” I know I sounded put out because he caved.

 

“Awwww – right.”

 

We snuck. Or is it sneaked? Whichever it was, we did it and ended up crawling through the worst-scratchin’ trap in the world. Some kind of vine with thorns as big as our noses kept us from getting through for some time but with perseverance and a little blood we made it. Of course, I went first so I got the most scrapes but that was okay because at least I had back-up.

 

First thing I noticed was it was just as shady and thick with weeds back here as in the front yard. Only here it was worse. There were paths through the ragweed, like the kind animals make. The only spot clear of vines and vegetation was the house. There was some kind of placard or sign on the back porch door. It was white with some letters in black that were too small to read from a distance so we crept up real close to see what it said. It was under a porch roof that somehow had lost some of its will to be a porch roof. It leaned down like it was protecting that back door from intruders. That’s what we were – intruders. So I was about convinced that roof was waiting for us to step closer before it collapsed and killed us.

 

“Okay, we’ve seen everything.” I stood tall. I’m not afraid. “Let’s go.”

 

“I want to see what the sign says.” He had that stubborn set to his jaw, like a terrier standing over a bone.

 

I nodded and inched closer. “Okay, just to read what it says.”

 

The door was shaded. Dark almost.

 

Little brother hung back while I took the two steps to the top of the porch. At the top I turned around and gave him my best glare. He shrugged and came up behind me.

 

So what did the sign say? It said, “I don’t eat fish. I don’t eat birds. I don’t eat anything on four legs.”

 

Well, after reading that I looked at Little Brother and saw his eyes go real wide just as I heard the creak of a door opening.

 

I don’t remember too much about flying off that porch, and scrambling through the thorns though I’m still nursing the cuts, and I don’t know if we tumbled across that chain-link fence or if I tossed Little Brother over first (which he says I did) and I don’t know how we got inside our house, lickety-split. But we did. And we’re safe. For now.

 

Our parents can’t understand why my brother and I choose to sit this summer out. We don’t care about the television or the computer. And forget about building forts in trees. We spend our time staring at the house next door from the safety of our upstairs window that overlooks it. We’re waiting. For what? For signs of life, maybe – or waiting to warn any other kids to keep away.

 

Because we know.

 

If you take out fish, and you take out birds, and you delete four-legged creatures, that only leaves two-legged creatures.

 

Just like us.

 

One note about the One Hundred Days to Health:

 

Don’t take and eat snacks at the gym. It’s like taking treats inside the dog park. Take notice – ladyinthepinktoponthetreadmill – we will attack for the snack.

 

Just the fats, Ma-am.

Fact #1  America’s number one health issue is obesity. I’ve been aware of this perhaps longer than the average American because this hugeness issue first showed up at my house. Not saying we were the only ones, just that it was what it was already in 1969 and that’s a long time ago.

Weight is an issue I struggle with, yet while I type this I remind myself this obsession isn’t a weight issue at its core, it is a food issue. You see, my parents were foodies before foodies were cool. In fact, my parents were so uncool in their foodicity that many, many years ago I said that I hoped they lived to see their grandchildren graduate. I wasn’t a cool thing to say, more like a cruel thing to say. It was then my father took me out to eat, something he did when he needed to discuss some serious something. During that wonderful Italian meal, he said, “It cost a lot of time, money and effort to put on this weight, why would I want to take it off?” Why indeed.

Fact #2: Obesity spawns incredible health risks such as diabetes, high blood pressure, hypertension, heart disease and stroke, breathing problems, sleep apnea, joint pain and strain, and the list goes on. It may be un – PC to talk about fat. Sorry. While there is a movement undertaken by overweight young persons to reclaim their sagging, uh, self-esteem, the monetary toll that fat takes on health care in general will only increase as the largest generation ever (pun not intentional), the baby-boomers, reaches medicare age as it is on the brink of doing.  Can we afford it, I doubt it.

My father did make it to my children’s graduation. Sadly, he died of pancreatic cancer (not known to be related to weight problems) and in his last year of life he lost so much weight I was begging him to eat.

My parents loved food. They took the family out to eat every week. I’m traveling down Memory Lane as I recall all the places we ate at. We hit every good place in Houston: The Golden Palace on West Gray, the original Antoine’s Imports and Deli, Valone’s  across from The Shamrock Hilton, Alfred’s on Stella Link, Captain John’s Seafood or the original Christie’s in the Med Center area. On Sundays after church we would sometimes take a drive (over 80 miles) to Don’s Seafood just this side of Beaumont or to Gaido’s in Galveston. (With the exception of Christie’s, Antoine’s, and Gaido’s all these places are gone.) When we kids left home the parents reported their visits to Tony’s, Brennan’s, Kaphan’s, Sonny Look’s Steakhouse (where an armored knight sat on a white horse in the parking lot), San Fransisco Steak House (a girl on a trapeze swung over the patron’s), Vargo’s (peacocks in the gardens), and all the ones in between.

My parents loved food. Not just at restaurants, my mother was an exceptional cook. My parents made a point of inviting the large families from church over for a meal – because who else would invite a family with four or more children to their home? Since we were a family with four children, we knew from experience. It was a great ministry they kept up for all the years we were growing up. My mother was an excellent cook and we children developed enduring friendships. It was all good.

Eventually their love of food caught up to them with lots of extra weight and later with diabetes, strokes, and sleep apnea.

Fact # 3: My parent’s generation grew up during the Great Depression. They didn’t have much food. If their families couldn’t grow it or raise it they probably didn’t eat it. And my parents were better off than many, at least they had a home. My mother in her old age tends to hoard her food. When my father passed away and we had to relocate my mother to a safer environment, I found food in drawers, in cabinets, hidden in bookshelves. Candy jars and cookie jars resided throughout the house. I’m not sure but that my parent’s love of food wasn’t colored by their childhood want.

This doesn’t excuse the younger generations of large people – generation after generation of fat. I worked for twelve years in a public school where I noticed a growth in numbers of large kids and fat families. There were always exceptions — large child, skinny parents, large parents, skinny children but the most common phenomenon were large parents with large children. And The Great Depression can’t be blamed for this.

So what can be blamed? We’ve gotta blame something. I say let’s blame Poncho’s Mexican Buffet. It’s those little flags that you could raise at the table when you ran out of something. It was non-stop, all-you-could-eat mexican food and it was cheesy, it was greasy, it was yummy. My parent’s loved that place. I loved that place. I can’t believe they went out of business.

Plenty of all-you-can-eat restaurants have taken hold and I see this no matter the size of the city or town. I saw an all-you-can-eat Chinese Buffet in Lufkin, Texas! Don’t-chu know that’s gotta be some good stuff in there, boy howdy!

I don’t even like to go in an all-you-can-eat place any more. Mainly because it’s a waste of good money. These days I try not to eat my weight in food. Also, it seems such a waste of food. Health laws require that any food set out in a service area can no longer be re-served, even if it was never touched. All that food must be tossed at the close of the day. Now don’t all rush to eat it up, ’cause they’ll just put more out. And isn’t it a shame with hungry people all over the world that so much food is thrown out every day? I say if no one patronizes those places they will gradually go away.

Fact #4: (Okay, opinion) Poncho’s was the first of its kind that I recall. I still say it’s Poncho’s fault we’re all fat.

Acadia National Park

English: Rocky coastline on mount desert Islan...
English: Rocky coastline on mount desert Island, Maine. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are some places around America that inspire with their tremendous beauty. One of those places I visited when I was fifteen. I remember discovering wild blueberries, eating them by the fist-full, and hearing the huffed warning of a bear. Running away with our pails of berries back to momma at the camper. She made pancake syrup, which we ate right away with campfire hotcakes.

Ankle deep in freezing clear water, I stood until I could no longer feel my feet to watch a starfish moving along lichen-covered boulders in a tidal pool. The evergreen trees were close to shore and sort of leaned toward the sea. Morning mists swirled and  twisted between the thick deep brown tree trunks.

Huge gray-brown rock cliffs worn by weather and waves jut unevenly into surf, the colors of everything piercingly bright in the gray dawn. I haven’t been back but …

Let me fly away,

toward that eastern shore to

face sunrise, while waves roll and

fold across my feet.

To stand again in clear water

cold,

between slate gray sea and Hiawatha forest

tufted along the beach.

Reclamation of lost

pieces of the heart means

more than anything rediscovering

the fine earth rhythms of life.

New Things in the Yard

Male Carolina Anole with partially expanded de...
Male Carolina Anole with partially expanded dewlap. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

It isn’t news that the Mexican White Wing dove has flown its Mexican coup, probably because of the violence, and is now setting up huge colonies in the Houston area. I have just discovered an astounding fact. The white-wing dove eats the seeds of the Chinese Tallow Tree!

 

Now, it has been my contention all these years that the Tallow tree is totally worthless. Okay, save for the fact that it might be the only tree in Houston that truly turns into colors in the fall. So for all those of us native Houstonians who have bemoaned the lack of fall color in our landscape – look around at the Tallows. I just saw a purple one yesterday. They do turn purple, red, orange and yellow sometimes all at once, and on one tree. Other than that bit of something, the Tallow being a non-native to America has never contributed to the wildlife food chain. Nothing will nest in it, except a perhaps a newbie crow or some such bird who learns soon enough not to ever do that again. Brittle Sticks! But now, these new big doves eat the seeds. Nothing else eats the seeds, nothing else uses the tree, for anything.

 

It’s like a huge deal. This is big news. Big.

 

The other new thing is the brown lizards. I don’t even think they have a name. I’ve been researching them. Can’t find them. They are too new for a name, I suppose. They must have a name somewhere but not in Houston. Here in Houston we have green Anoles, we used to call them chameleons because they change color. You know the lizard they magnified in the old movie, Journey to the Center of the Earth? That’s what the Green Anole looks like. They’re cute. We have horny toads, too, though rare. Don’t laugh. They are stickery. Then we have the relatively new Japanese House Gecko, which looks nothing like the Geico gecko. These have clear skin over their stomach and you can see their insides. They chirp. They run really fast, like a roach. And the fact that they come out at night and crawl across the porch ceiling doesn’t help their image. They came over on cargo ships like many of our non-natives species come, whether intentionally or not. Obviously lizards were not an intentional shipment.

 

The new brown lizards are small, fast and hang out in the heat of the day like a desert creature might. Their colors range from dark to light and they have some light markings. The distinguishable coloration is the light strip down a bony ridge of a backbone. Unlike the Green Anole, their mouth is blunt tipped. I haven’t seen any leave part of their tail behind when chased like the Green Anole does.

 

I wonder what the brown lizard’s impact will be on the biodiversity of my yard. Is it a predator of insects like the other lizards or is it a predator of other lizards? I have seen a decline in the Anole population but that can be due to the hugely wet summer and then the long dry spell we are experiencing now. Will the brown lizard wreak havoc on the toad population? I haven’t seen many toads at all. Will the brown lizard ever receive a name? Has anyone else seen them?

 

And will the abundant and voracious white-wing dove eat the brown lizard? I’ll just have to watch to find out.