Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Salad Bowl Mystery

On July 1st, I was in our backyard unstrangling bindweed from the Rose of Sharon bushes, when I discovered a very pretty shell stuck on a leaf. It was creamy white with a brown line twirling into the center. Our grandchildren, Megan and Jonathan were visiting from Georgia. John (Papa) was at the pool at the corner of our block watching the kids swim and dive. I took the interesting shell and put in on the back porch step to show the kids when they came home, and went back to weeding. But when I came back to the porch the shell had moved. IT WAS ALIVE! (Drum roll here, or imagine the music from Jaws).

It was a snail. It’s probably obvious that I have no snail experience on my resume. I gave it a new home inside a high walled glass salad bowl, with a bumpy rock set in the middle and some leaves for his lunch.

I haven’t had a pet since my old cat died in 1983, so I googled garden snails. They need dirt for calcium that helps them build I put dirt in the salad bowl. I fed him organic (from my garden) cucumber peels, basil, and strawberry leaves, and sprinkled in some water (you don’t want your snail to dehydrate).

One Google snail site was for kids. A boy suggested putting a lid on your snail jar with holes punched in it for air. But that seemed mean (the lid, not the air), besides Speedy Sam always went back inside the bowl after a little stroll. Also the nasty kid in the video poked at the tiny snail's horns to show how they retract when touched. I wonder if that kid will be out twirling cats by their tails some day? 

Jonathan named our new pet Speedy (oh, the irony!), and Megan named him Samthat’s how we knew it was a boy snail. Actually snails are Hermaphrodites, but still need another snail to reproduce (Thank you, Google).

Speedy Sam
I told my daughter-in-law about our new pet. 
Bonnie asked, “Are you going to eat him?”
“What? Eat Speedy Sam!”
“Snails are escargot,” she reminded me.
“Are you going to eat Archie?” I asked. 
Archie’s a Golden Retriever. They aren’t going to eat Archie.

Before dirt outside of the bowl
The kids went home to Georgia and I kept feeding and watering Speedy Sam, but I have to tell you—I often felt guilty watching him walk (slither) along the bowl’s rim. I’d say to John, “Maybe we should put him back in the yard. Let him be free.”

This is liberal guilt rearing its do-gooder head. I’m against the death penalty, against unjustified imprisonment. Shouldn’t this beautiful snail get to live in the garden? He didn’t do anything wrong. 

After dirt
But John liked watching him, and I admit, I did too, so he stayed in the salad bowl sitting on a high table on our screened back porch. We were family.


Five days ago Speedy Sam disappeared. When we checked his bowl in the morning, he was gone. We took out his celery stalk. Occasionally we found him clinging to it upside down—but not this day. We took out his half cucumber. We took out the rock and checked under it. We pushed the dirt around with the celery stick. No Speedy Sam. We searched the whole porch, under tables and chairs, ceiling, walls, screens. Gone!

Two days later I was weeding the vegetable garden and I found another snail. Is this Karma? 

I brought it in, put it in Speedy Sam’s cleaned bowl, and added the rock and some salad mix. This was a different snail. Darker. Smaller.

Two days later Snail #2 was gone. Speedy Sam hung out with us for about fifty days. Snail #2 was here just two days. Do snails have some telepathic means of telling each other how to get out of a screened porch?

Is Karma crap?

Snails can see, but their sense of smell is strongest, and they’re nocturnal. But how the heck did they get out of the porch? I’m open to theories.


As I wrote about a snails sense of smell, I looked around our screened porch. On the west side the screen is covered with ivy. That’s the way a smart snail would go—head for the foliage. The green outdoor carpet is a little longer than the concrete floor on that side, so it bends up about two inches. I moved chairs out of the way and lifted the rug. And there was Speedy Sam. Dead...I was sure. But then several times over the past weeks I thought he was dead. The phrase shouldn’t be, “Playing possum,” it should be “Playing snail.”

He looked wrecked. Dirty. So I put him back in the bowl with some cilantro I had just picked, and showered a half-cup of water on his filthy shell. He didn’t move.

Yesterday morning I checked the salad bowl. Speedy Sam was slithering around on the cilantro. Later John and I took him out to the garden and had a little ceremony. I put Speedy Sam back where I found him on a Rose of Sharon leaf.

I felt betterrelieved—I could quit feeling guilty...but it’s a little lonely. 

Several times during the day we checked and Speedy Sam was still clinging to the leaf. This morning he was gone, perhaps off to find a boy/girl friend.

PS. We still don’t know where Snail #2 went?