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Talley The Dragon Tamer

And she tamed me

By Zel HarrisonPublished 2 years ago Updated 2 years ago 6 min read
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Talley Talley The Dragon Tamer. Walk like the dog. Raise your high wick whack tail and run away from the pack. No slack. You have earned your place. Assume the position of leader. You are the huntress with keen senses. Guard and be faithful to your person with all your might.

This toast was made to a Jack Russel Terrier that I was about to inherit.

Talley was famous at a permaculture farm near the everglades in Miami. The place was not for the faint of heart, as you never knew when you would come face to face with alligators, Florida panthers and birds of prey. Talley was a rough and tumble little lady. Originally a stray, she wandered onto the farm knowing she had a mission to keep everyone on the watch. If she was human, she would be quick thinking, protective, and devoted to her person.

Her original owner, my friend Micco Billy, wore a baseball hat flipped to the back of his head, and sported the same plaid Bermuda shorts every day. First thing in the morning he could be seen smoking a cigar that was hanging out of the side of his mouth. He puffed as he planted and harvested with a dog patrolling with him, and a hoe in his left hand. In Seminole tradition

“If an animal crosses your path twice, bearing gifts, you are meant to be together."

By Uriel Soberanes on Unsplash

Talley had a remarkable gift for sensing vibrations. When the gators came onto the farm looking to make mud nests, she alerted everyone with a special high pitched howl. She was one of five dogs that wandered into the compound, and each one of them had a unique job.

By Heshan Weeramanthri on Unsplash

I considered myself one of the strays as well and was hired to work at the farm for a few months out of the year before I started a program to wheel the arts to level eight juvenile offenders.

I knew that if I worked with Micco I would learn as much as I could about above ground gardening, and enjoyed hanging out with the animals. I was enroute to produce a documentary about permaculture farming and this was a perfect opportunity to learn from a master gardener who could offer ancient wisdom and guidance about my own clay pot plantings.

Micco Billy, was and is a world class adventurer. On a given day at a moment’s notice he would be exploring the jungles of Belize or mountain climbing in Tenerife Spain. For now he wanted to experiment with farming and reached out to families in Homestead and Miami with fruit and veggie bags for those in need.

Talley’s first experience under Micco’s tutelage was to watch him wrestle an alligator and guide it back into the adjacent canal. Talley’s keen sense of awareness was to warn the human about the alligators. She tuned in to the special mating vibrations and warned Micco and our group by running in circles around us. In one precarious situation a female alligator managed to get above the berm of the canal and was heading toward the interior of the farm. Micco straddled the gator, and with strong guided movements of his body, redirected it toward the water. Before submerging in the water, Billey flung himself off the crocodilian as though he was doing a backstroke in a pool.

Every night was always different at the farm. We farm workers sat around an old wooden barn and told the most remarkable adventure stories by a crackling fire. Talley was mesmerized by Micco’s tales, as she curled up on his lap waiting for her turn. Bull Bat birds lazily circled overhead making the most obnoxious sounds, while we laughed into the night and howled to all of the beautiful nature.

Micco stirred the fire, and added wood. A Panther call echoed from the wild as it hunted very close to camp on this night. I guess the spirit moved me at that moment and I told Micco that if he decided to go on holiday someplace in the wide world I would take Talley back to my home. I was truly falling in love with this character.

Cheers were said and then beers, and Micco told all of us he would be going to Spain for about six months and had to divvy up the animals until he got back. Talley and I were probably soul mates and had a very similar personality. So I headed back to my suburban rental in Ft. Lauderdale on a canal. I knew Talley would like the house as it had a big backyard, a place to plant and wild banana trees.

What was really interesting about the house is that it had a gazebo in the backyard made with entwined rattan. Vanilla bean plants looped over the gazebo and the whole scene looked very tropical. It was not uncommon to see a tree full of huge Iguanas that nested behind the home, and every once in a while something splashed loudly in the canal, although I had never seen alligators. Maybe there was a prehistoric creature out there.

Gazebo in backyard was covered with Vanila beans

Author's pic of backyard

trees for a family of Iguanas

I put Talley on my lap since this was the first time she had been off the farm. I told her about my home in detail, and explained that this would be an interesting excursion. We would stay in touch with Micco, and she would see him soon. She licked my face for the first time, smiled a little crooked dog smile and wagged that wick whack tail. I knew we were going to be forever buddies.

One night, six months after Talley came to the house I decided to sleep outside under the stars. I pulled out my blanket and pillow and set up the outdoor encampment about twelve feet from the orchid plant which was about to flower. One of the plants grew to almost ten feet tall, and heard that the flowers could be pollinated if you acted quickly as soon as they blossomed. I had learned how to self-pollinate the flowers to produce vanilla beans, so I was ready. The weather channel blasted warnings that there was going to be a furious tropical storm with up to sixty mile an hour winds the next day. I was determined to wait for the flowers to open so that I could experience the pollination for the first time. As I slept, my buddy put her head over mine, and watched every move I made. When I woke up occasionally she was right there next to me hovering. Early the next morning Talley began to circle around me, just like she did on the farm with tremendous agitation. Suddenly she was barking furiously but did not stay in one place. She ran from me to the canal, and back in a circle.

By Kenneth Berrios Alvarez on Unsplash

Within minutes the largest almost eight foot alligator was making its way from the canal to the backyard, and I was frozen momentarily. Talley began nipping at my pant legs, and in a jack flash, I turned around and headed back into the house to call the fire department. Talley and I kept a watch from the glass windows, and before the fire department arrived the gator had somehow changed its course and went back to the canal. Possibly because it heard a mating vibration from other alligators. That night the storm started, and the high winds were at hurricane speed. I decided to stay in the house with Talley and once again she proved her loyalty and protectiveness. At one point we sat in a closet and we told stories about the farm. I promised that after the storm was over she could help me plant a garden in the backyard and ward off the dragons. The next day, I was on the phone telling all the relatives and friends we were safe and sound, and kept the back door open so that Talley could go outside. When I returned to the kitchen, what I witnessed was as stark as the alligator experience. A five foot Iguana that lived on one of our scrub oaks, made his way into the living room. Talley was accustomed to exotic dragons. She left her perch on the vaccum to herd this dragon out of the house.

Tallie always watchful

A parade ensued as she circled the green dragon ushering him out the back door as though herding cattle. I threw some bananas outside to hasten the Iguana’s exit, as it whipped its long tail side to side. I had to laugh because the floor was getting a good mopping. Talley trotted out with her short strong legs and we watched the dragon head back to his tree where he kept a look out.

size of Iguana that came into kitchen

Later that day, we accessed the damage in the backyard. It was sad because nature took its toll on a little piece of paradise. The winds had flattened the gazebo, and my prized vanilla plant. What remained were strewn cuttings in a pile of rattan. The clearing and rebuilding would take some time, but in its place I planted an above ground garden just like Micco Billey’s with Talley at my side, and a hoe in my left hand.

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About the Creator

Zel Harrison

I travel with a nap sack on my back to gather stories and sit in the circle of humanity.

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    Zel HarrisonWritten by Zel Harrison

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