Thursday, June 26, 2014

Turtles in the Sand #TBTStories

Yesterday's Wednesday Hodgepodge question about sand got me thinking about the fun we have had over the years on the beautiful Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman. My Throwback Thursday Stories post today is about those toes-in-the-sand days of turtle building on the beach.

Our sand turtle tradition began when my mom and dad first started vacationing in Grand Cayman in the early 80s. They went with another couple, and one day, the two men built a large turtle out of sand. It was a great conversation starter with folks on the beach, and it soon became a vacation tradition. One year, their turtle even made the Cayman newspaper. The Cayman Islands have been known for their abundance of turtles since 1503, when Christopher Columbus approached Little Cayman and Cayman Brac and saw "two very small and low islands, full of tortoises, as was all the sea all about, insomuch that they looked like little rocks, for which reason these islands were called Las Tortugas."

When we started going with my parents to Grand Cayman, the kids were excited to continue the tradition. My dad even had t-shirts made for us.

This is a photo of my dad and Jim with David and Andrew in front of the turtle. I think it's 1987.
Of course, as you might imagine, this wasn't just a casual dig in the sand. Turtle construction is an intricate and serious undertaking, requiring careful planning and gathering of tools and equipment. Early in the week, my dad would make friends with the maintenance crew to gain access to shovels. You certainly can't build a turtle of grand proportion with plastic sand shovels!
Everyone would work together (well mostly my dad and Jim) all day long, to craft the magnificent, friendly creature emerging from the water. After completion, everyone (even non-shovelers) would pose in front of our turtle. (Don't you like my mom's sassy hand-on-hip pose?) Lots and lots of beach-walkers stopped to admire our work, many took pictures, a few took a picture of themselves with the turtle, and some even wanted to hold the shovels!
My dad and the kids spent several days prior to building gathering the pine cones from the Casuarina trees that grow on the edge of the beach. My dad worked painstakingly to outline the shell of the big fellow. He used a couple of flat leaves for the eyes.
One year we had a crowd for turtle building day, when some of our friends from the 'burg were staying just down the beach. Now that's quite a crew!
One of my favorite turtle photos is this one, from 1991, when Adam was just 4 months old. We used it for our Christmas card.
The turtle building has slowed a bit over the last few years. Seems like these days we favor beach sitting over shoveling. :) I think this may be the last time we built a turtle, with the group of 17 we took in 2009. The Casuarina trees don't seem to produce the little pine cones since the hurricanes, so he doesn't have a fancy shell. You can't see it in this photo, but they used coconuts for the eyes.
Cute little Matthew got lots of lookers when he said, "Wanna see our turtle? The eyes are coconuts." The college boys thought it wasn't a bad pick-up line. Lol.

Linking up with Jessica at The Mom Creative for Throwback Thursday Stories. #TBTStories. (No linkup today, but I'm sharing my story anyway.) :)

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