Opinion: Whistler’s Buster: Portrait of a shell game


My neighbors are wondering who the weird guy is standing on the shore of the neighborhood pond every day, whistling. Some have seen and heard this from their backyard decks. “I think he’s harmless, but he is technically trespassing,” Eric said. “If this continues, maybe we should call the police,” Paul said.

I was opposed to getting law enforcement involved for three reasons:

  • Whistling is not hurting anyone.
  • Whistling is not against the law.
  • And I am the whistler.

Yes, it’s true. Every day at 5:30 p.m., I wander down the hill to the pond in our community and whistle to summon my turtle friend to come to the shore for a sprinkling of turtle food — a smorgasbord of insects, fish eggs and protein nuggets. He is always ready and wading.

His name is Buster. He’s a red-eared slider about the size of a personal pizza. I named him after my favorite silent movie star since he is just as quiet. When I found the turtle crossing the road on a main thoroughfare near my house, I relocated him to our pond.

Turtles are awesome pets. I don’t have to walk him (so, better than a dog); he comes when I call (so, better than a cat); and he is not venomous (so, better than some snakes). And he doesn’t make off-color remarks (so, better than a parrot).

Every time I go to the pond, I record cellphone video of my meeting with Buster. I now have about two hours of footage with 40 segments that are virtually identical to each other. When he hears my whistle, his head bobs up and down and he moves closer to shore. Rinse, repeat. He gobbles up the food, then he’s gone. If any of these videos ever won an award, it would be for Best Nature Film with No Sound, No Plot, No Predator/Prey Chase.

I look forward to this encounter every day. Honestly, Buster doesn’t need my help with his daily sustenance. His species has survived 250 million years without pre-packaged turtle food and some crazy human whistling at them (while at the same time freaking out the neighbors). Buster may move on some day. Turtles tend to relocate, always looking for partners to propagate the species. He won’t have much luck in the romance department if he stays here. On the other hand, Buster may have more than a few years on him, with his amorous escapades 40 years in his past. But if he does someday search for new digs, I will miss him.

I know he’s a turtle, but I wish him Godspeed!

Note: The videos of Buster are on my Facebook page. If you want to see a video in slow motion, you’re in luck: It looks like it already is.