The View from a Drawbridge

The random musings of a bridgetender with entirely too much time on her hands.

Jonathan was born in 1832, give or take a year. He can be forgiven if, after 189 years of walking this earth, he’s a little vague on his exact “hatchday”. He’s the oldest known living terrestrial animal in the world. (Heaven knows what’s floating down there in the depths of the ocean, though.) Jonathan is a Seychelles giant tortoise.

Imagine all the history he’s been around for. He was born before the American Civil War, before planes and telephones and moving pictures. He has probably borne witness to a lot of tortuous women’s fashions. And the fact that he still could care less about any of that stuff is part of his charm.

When he was about 50 years old, he took an epic journey. One can assume that no one asked his permission to uproot him. (What nerve.) He went from the Seychelles Islands, which are in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa, to Saint Helena Island, where he lives now, which is in the South Atlantic, off the west coast of Africa. As the bird flies, these two islands are 4,223 miles apart, but since planes were still the stuff of fantasy, his trip would have been a long, slow one, most likely by boat around the tip of Africa.

I wonder what he made of that. We’ll never know. Jonathan tends to keep his own counsel.

Poor Jonathan didn’t get a name until the 1930’s. The governor of Saint Helena named him. That kind of makes sense, since he’s been living on the grounds of the official governor’s residence ever since. I’m glad he got a dignified name. A guy this old shouldn’t be called Pookey or Torty McTortface. Before that, I guess he just responded to “hey you”.

Hard to say how much longer Jonathan will live. One tortoise was rumored to have lived for 255 years, but there’s no actual proof. Hard to say how far he has advanced into his geezer-hood. He is blind from cataracts and no longer has a sense of smell to find food, but he has excellent hearing and seems to be well taken care of. He still likes to breed. More power to him.

He has also been honored with his picture on the back of the Saint Helena five-pence coin. That’s the least we could do for our terrestrial animal patriarch. May he live many more happy years.

And say what you will about this old guy, he still has a stronger chin than Mitch McConnell.

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