Let’s give these little guys our attention
by Margo Oxendine, Contributing Columnist
I don’t know why I am so fascinated by turtles. On my daily walks, I keep my eyes peeled for an unmistakable hump, perhaps moving slowly down the grass. It’s either a turned-over fallen leaf or … it’s a turtle!
If it’s a turtle, my heart leaps. I leap right after it, to assure the little creature is out of the way of any cars that may come past. I’ve seen what can happen when a car can’t bother to get out of the way to keep a turtle safe. Once, I visited the Wildlife Center of Virginia in Waynesboro, where they care for injured wildlife until it can, hopefully, be rehabilitated for release back into its natural habitat.
The hospital staff was caring for two turtles with smashed shells. They looked pitiful. The nurses were piecing their shells back together with something like Bondo. The turtles did not seem to mind. And I was told they would be “good as new” after everything set. That made me feel good.
I am one of those—and there are many of us—who will pull over to pick up a wayward turtle and place it on the grassy side of the road. I don’t know if that’s the direction the turtle had in mind, but at least it’s safe for now.
Once, I was driving up a curvy mountain road and spotted a woman standing near the center line. “What’s that crazy woman doing?” I wondered. Then, I realized she was rescuing a turtle from the highway. As I got closer and slowed down, I realized it was my very own sister! No surprise to me. God bless her.
I was riding with a friend one day and suddenly, he screeched on his brakes, pulled over in a cloud of dust, hopped onto the highway in front of a speeding log truck, and plucked a turtle out of the truck’s path. I was impressed!
Just this week, I was walking along the wooded lane, and noticed a tell-tale hump. My first turtle of the season! He was tucked inside his shell. I marched over, picked him up, and moved him out of the road, and onto the verge, facing toward the woods. He never left his shell. Gee, I wondered, is he dead? On my way back up the lane, I looked and there he was, still tucked inside his shell. I felt kind of bad that I may have rescued a dead turtle.
So, the next day, I hiked back to that very spot, and couldn’t see him anywhere. Hooray! One day, I encountered the most beautiful turtle I’d ever seen. His shell seemed to be painted with bright orange decorations. I looked up “painted turtles” and discovered they exist, but not around here. Maybe he was simply a turtle who liked to travel long distances.
Another day on another mountain, I ruined a $150 pair of snazzy shoes rescuing a turtle. Turns out, he was right near a big, muddy hole. No matter. Turtles are worth more than snazzy shoes.
On yet another drive, I encountered the biggest, meanest-looking turtle I’ve ever seen. He looked like a monster turtle, and he looked mad as the dickens. I could not make myself stop to pick him up. Maybe he was a snapping turtle? I hope he is happily snapping at something in a pond right now, no thanks to me.
So please keep your eyes peeled for the lumbering creatures along the roadside, and give them a brake, or if needed, a hand. They won’t thank you, but you’ll feel really good about it.
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