The Turtle

September 25th, 2008

I happen to be out the other day getting gas and after leaving I turned onto the semi-country roads heading home. During this time of year the leaves are beginning to turn, the weather’s just beginning to turn chilly and animals are doing their best to find all they can to prepare for the coming winter which assuredly will take it’s toll on many of them and leave them fewer than before. Survival depends on their every move and unlike us, they seem to make all their efforts count. They criss-cross the roads in search of food sources, new dens, boroughs or secret hide aways. They gather, connect, mate, separate, roam and settle all in order to be what they are meant to be according to the grand design set in place so long ago. But inevitably, our necessary intrusion into their world results in tragedy.

I had gone only a short way when I noticed a small turtle in the middle of my travel lane. A rarety to be sure as we almost never see turtles crossing the road around here. I whoa’ed up my truck and swung off the road at the first spot along the shoulder where I could safely do so, got out and at a full sprint, headed back to the small creature still sitting where I had passed.

I’m not sure what it is. As many of you already know I grew up on a farm and I have a great affection for all animals no matter how great or how small. In fact, one of my favorite books as a child was All Creatures Great and Small. I ate those words up and loved our animals. I loved reading about the life and adventures of that country vet and how he had both great triumphs and such tragic lows. But he loved through it all. Any chance we got to care for wounded animals we took and soon people would show up at our house with owls, squirrels, raccoons and hawks for us to care for. What an adventure that was!

I had all those memories flashing back all at once as I ran back to where he was. I knew I wouldn’t remove him from his habitat but just wanted to make sure he got off the road safely to forage, frolic and survive for another day.

But as I approached, I could see that all was not right. I slowed my sprint to a jog and I could feel my heart beating heavily in my chest as my eyes took it in, my brain began to process and my emotions began to gear up for what I was observing. He hadn’t moved the whole time I was running back to him and as I got closer I could see the tell-tale split in his shell that told the whole story. But I still hoped. I hoped that maybe I could get him to a vet so we could repair the split and maybe he would make it. I’ve heard of that and seen that being done, but this poor baby was so small that the reality was that there really wasn’t much hope at all.

I arrived with him and here was this tiny box turtle freshly killed. Dead. Someone had ran him over and just kept on going. I don’t know………. I don’t expect everyone to stop when they hit an animal. Hey, it happens. Most times it just can’t be avoided and it’s sad. But thats the way things go sometimes. But a turtle? It’s not like it darted out into the street! It was in the middle of the travel lane and not even near where one’s tires would be. I was so frustrated…….and sad. A wave of sadness swept over me as I reached down and picked up his lifeless body and moved him off the road and mourned him before placing him into the weeds for his final resting place. I blinked away the welling tears that seem to be ever near my emotions and walked back to my truck, shoulders just a little lower than before and well aware of my own mortality. What a beautiful creature, no more.

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One Response

  1. warren Says:

    I am glad that you stop and move turtles. I have always done the same. I am amazed, as you say, that some people seem to go out of their way to hit turtles. I don’t understand it. Anyhow, please keep moving turtles off the road. It’s the right thing to do.

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