The first rays of sun break through the darkness, and the gray light of dawn appears. It does not last long, though, for as the sun rises higher, its light gains strength. The misty gray of dawn that briefly replaced the black of night, is now flooded by the warm, bright rays of sunlight that promise a beautiful new day. They travel over a verdant field, and shed their warmth on a little pond, awakening a turtle on the bottom.
Finley is a red-eared slider, a common water turtle in the southern United States. He stirs now, and rises from under the rock which made his bed for the night, swimming to the surface to do his favorite thing, sunbathing. The sun has only just risen, so the frogs, crickets, and other nocturnal folks are still keeping up their noisy chorus. But Finley is used to it, and he doesn’t mind. He sticks his head up for a breath of air. He then goes down again, reappearing in the middle of the pond and clambering to the highest point of his favorite protruding log. There he finds a ray of sunlight and basks in its warmth.
Other turtles like him have also awakened by now and come out to sunbathe, some of them even climbing on top of each other. The fish, too, begin to jump and swim, gobbling up insects that land in the water and even small frogs. Toward noon, Finley’s half-shut eyes catch sight of a trail of bubbles rising in the middle of the pond, and the sharp snout of the alligator appears above the surface. He snaps up a fish sideways and swallows it whole. A heron appears from the overgrown weeds on the bank. She steps cautiously with slender legs, then stands perfectly still. With a quick spear, she brings up a wriggling young bass.
But a heron and alligator are not the only ones who fish around here. Toward evening, Mark saunters slowly down the hill, a pole over his shoulder and tackle box in his hand. The more timid turtles slide into the pond as he nears the shoreline, but Finley does not. He is used to this young fisherman and is content to sit on his log and watch him. The boy hooks a plump worm onto his line and casts it out. He has a good catch of fish, but releases them today. He takes up his gear again and heads home to enjoy his dinner that is wafting its savory aroma from the grill.
Finley too slides down for the fifth time today, and has a feast of leafy water plants, with a few snails on them for dessert. When he has finished, he soaks up the last orange rays of the setting sun, slides down into the water, and once again goes to sleep on his muddy bed under the big rock. By now, the creatures of the night have set up their orchestra that will carry on until the sun once again climbs the horizon, until the fish once again gather insects and frogs, and until Finley, the red-eared slider, once again climbs his favorite log and enjoys the warmth of the sun’s bright rays.