Gecko Legend Three
How the Gecko Became the Goddess of Gulfport
by Renee Proulx
A long, long time ago, before there was a Gulfport, a giant sea turtle sailed up to the coast of what is now Florida.
The sea turtle sailed? Yes, it did. It had been swimming up from the South Seas and took on a passenger-a giant, Kawekaweau (ca-wec-a-wow) gecko. To be more precise, the gecko was doing the sailing. The turtle was the sailing ship. You might ask, “How did such an odd combination of reptiles come to be sailing together?”
First, it is important to understand that the Kawecaweau type of gecko was so big that it could not run and hide like the little geckoes we see everywhere in Gulfport, today.
This gecko was 2 feet long and as fat as a man’s wrist around the middle. Unfortunately, the Kawecaweau had bigger predators who would like to eat it. She wanted to leave this place.
One evening the Kawecaweau spied an enormous sea turtle resting on the beach.
She knew that sea turtles travel very far. She decided to approach him, but she stayed at a distance. She called to him and asked if he liked geckoes for lunch. He told her that sea turtles did not eat geckos-ever. She thought that sounded promising, so she explained her desire to leave. She asked where he was going and if he would be willing to take her along. He replied that he was going very far from here.
After discussing it, he decided to help her leave this dangerous place.
The Kawecaweau suggested that they could reach their destination faster if they sailed. The turtle was unconvinced of the need for a speedier journey. The Kawacaweau explained that she would be the sail and he would be the sailboat and captain. HE would chart the course and keep them on it with his webbed feet. She would attach herself to his back with her special feet that can cling very tightly and set the sail so they didn’t go too fast.
She went to look for something that would be usable for a sail.
Hmm…, she thought, a good sail should be tough and also bendy. She looked up and saw a giant Puka tree. She knew that tree had the biggest and strongest leaves around that bend very easily.
She brought a few large leaves back to where the turtle lay resting.
Attaching one end of a leaf to her tail, she held the other in her mouth. She woke the turtle again and showed him her sailing rig. As she climbed on his back, her color blended right in with the sea turtle’s shell. The hooked ridges on the pads of her feet kept her from sliding off the smooth turtle house. She was surely protected now. It just looked like the turtle had a growth on his back. This new look gave the sea turtle more protection, too. Who would attack a humungous, humped-back, sea turtle? And that is how the gecko came to be sailing the sea turtle.
The sea turtle was still sleeping when the Kawecaweau arrived at dawn.
The gecko had a big breakfast of bugs and the turtle dove under the surf to munch on sea grass and crabs. Once they had finished dining, the Kawecaweau connected herself to the sea turtle’s shell with her special feet. It was a beautiful morning for an ocean voyage. When they were far enough from shore, the Kawecaweau unfurled her Puka leaf sail and assembled her rig. They immediately caught the wind and began to move swiftly through the water. It took a little getting used to, but the sea turtle came to appreciate how easy it was to glide through the ocean.
They travelled for many days and more nights.
They developed a rhythm and a routine. The sea turtle became comfortable with moving swiftly while they sailed, and the Kawecaweau was happy to ride along at the sea turtle’s pace when there was no wind; catching bugs and lounging in the sun.
After being out on the ocean for many weeks, they started to notice more sea turtles.
Although the turtles they passed did not have a gecko sail, all were headed in the same direction. The Kawecaweau was troubled that she had seen no other geckoes.
The next morning they spotted a large land mass ahead of them; much bigger than the islands they passed and rested on.
As the breeze carried them towards the shore, they noticed something odd. Some of the turtles were heading towards land and some were coming back. They slowed and asked one, which was swimming away from shore, why she was leaving. She said that she had buried her eggs on land and was heading out for another ocean journey.
This news confused them, but they continued.
They both felt excited as they approached the shore. They landed and watched the other sea turtles. Each would dig a hole, hover over it and then cover it. Soon after, they would head back to the ocean. Then the Kawecaweau watched, astonished, as her own turtle dug a hole and did the same thing. She was dropping eggs in the hole! As the sea turtle was making her way back down the beach, she told the Kawecaweau that this was the first time she had come here since she was born; and did not know until that moment that she was coming here to bury her eggs or even that “he” was actually a “she”. She also wished her friend good luck in her new home, and said she hoped to see her again, when she returned. With that, she slipped into the water and swam out to sea. The gecko waved good-bye and wished the sea turtle a safe journey.
She was somewhat frightened to be left alone in this new land, but it was warm, had bugs to eat and she felt rather safe.
The next morning she cautiously went off exploring, hoping to find some geckoes. She didn’t, but she did find lots of bugs! More insects than she could ever imagine eating, and she was very hungry.
There were some people living on this land that were following the movements of the big lizard, the likes of which they had never seen before.
They noticed how fast and how many bugs she could eat. These native people had come to protect the sea turtles from predators. They believed the sea turtles were sacred creatures sent from the gods. They had seen the lizard riding the turtle and were convinced that it was also a special being.
They wanted to take the lizard back to their village with them.
One of the native people softly approached her and asked if she would like to come to the safety of their homeland. After the initial scare of seeing creatures walk on two legs, instead of four; she sensed a welcoming that felt honest and sincere. She agreed and they travelled together to the village. Sometimes she walked, hopped or ran along, and sometimes she was carried.
She was introduced to the entire village as a sacred lizard, a world-wide traveler who could ride a sea turtle.
The people were astounded by this feat and also by her ability to eat so many of the insects that bit them and caused disease. She told them she was actually a Kawecaweau gecko and asked if there were any other geckoes in the village. She was disappointed to hear there were none.
A few days later she found herself building a cozy nest.
She climbed in and out came two eggs. Everyone was very excited. There would be more geckoes to eat the bugs that seemed never-ending. She covered the eggs with soft moss to keep them warm. In a short while they hatched into healthy baby geckoes. The villagers could not understand how this lizard could make babies without a mate. She must surely be descended from the Gods.
The baby geckoes grew up very quickly, but they didn’t grow to be as big as the Kawecaweau.
In fact, they were half her size. She produced two more eggs soon after and they grew up smaller still. The female off-spring soon started having babies that grew to only a fraction of the size of their giant grandmother.
The Kawecaweau continued to have more babies every few months.
The villagers were thrilled because all these geckoes would eat the bugs that made them ill. When the Kawecaweau was too old to have more babies, her off-spring continued to have more off-spring until the entire village, which eventually became Gulfport, had so many geckoes, the diseases from the bugs were wiped-out. The people of the village were so grateful; they created a statue of the giant Kawecaweau gecko lizard and honored her as their personal Goddess.
And that is how the gecko became the goddess of Gulfport.