A funny thing happened…on the way home.
Tuesday evenings usually mean yoga after work. Tonight it also meant I was also going to a friend’s book signing. By mid-afternoon, I decided to skip both and go straight home. I couldn’t shake the nagging feeling that I needed to leave work and go outside.
My commute is fairly short, just less than twenty minutes. I keep my radio off and let my brain go skipping merrily down any road it desires. Good ideas come from those little jaunts.
So, a funny thing happened on the way home. I’m driving along about 4:30 pm when something ahead catches my attention. There’s a big turtle walking alongside of the road. I looked for a driveway to pull into but there weren’t many easy access ones at that point. I drove a little further. Another car was turning around in the entrance to the next street. Maybe they saw the turtle and were going back.
A few yards beyond that point is a fire department. Without hesitation, I pulled into the parking lot and headed back to rescue the turtle.
‘I am my mother’s daughter’ was the thought that popped into my mind.
Slowly driving back to the spot, I kept looking but couldn’t see the turtle. Maybe someone else beat me to him. Maybe someone grabbed him for turtle soup. I hoped that wasn’t the case. I pulled off into the next road and headed back in my original direction. Then I saw it. Somehow he got over the bump at the side of the road and into the grass several inches above the road. Safe for the moment.
But his neck was sticking out and he was turning back toward the road. This time I pulled off into a driveway two houses up. I shut the car off, grabbed my keys and hurried towards the endangered creature. He kept walking but turned toward the road again. I started running.
Did I mention that I was in heels and a skirt today? And no pockets for keys.
I caught up with the turtle. A snapper. He wasn’t big. He – or she – was huge. I’m talking pounds of turtle. As big as a dinner plate. Six inches of grass stood between him and turtle heaven. I started to reach down and…
Then a funny thing happened. A photo popped into my head. Over the weekend, I was catching up on several days’ worth of newspapers and other reading material. There was a short article about picking up turtles. I’d flipped past it but something made me go back. A photo showed someone’s hands safely holding a large turtle. The person’s hands were at the back of the shell, on either side of the tail. The author said not to pick them up by the tail because it would injure the turtle. Interesting, I thought, moving on to the next article.
Now here I am in a skirt and heels on the side of the road, in someone’s front yard, trying to help this turtle. My keyless hand grabbed the shell on the right side of his tail. That’s when his neck shot out. I couldn’t let go or he’d land in the road. I held on and with the other hand caught his tail for balance making sure not to injure him.
The entire time I was picking him up cars were driving by in both directions. I kept holding on to my reluctant friend who continued to reach back for a snap every few seconds. Could I find a break in the traffic and carry the ‘little’ bugger across the road where he’d been headed?
That wasn’t going to happen. He was way too heavy and too eager to snap at me. Never mind that I couldn’t stand up straight without ending up with his sharp claws digging into my abdomen. I turned around, carrying him like I was ready to sneak up on an unsuspecting victim, and headed for a large garden beside the house. Ready to jump back, I lowered him close to the ground and dropped him while yanking my hands out of reach.
I ran back to my car to grab my cell phone. Nobody would believe this story unless I had some proof. My friend cooperated for a few photos. I thought about the homeowners. They might reach in there to pull weeds or a child might get into that garden. Nobody answered at their door nor at the neighbor’s house.
Success at the third house. Try explaining a turtle rescue to a complete stranger, through the crack of her door, while her dog barks in the background. She must think I’m completely nuts. Ah, no, it seems her husband had seen the turtle a few days before. She’d get him to call the neighbors and warn them.
Warning on the way and snapping turtle out of danger, I walked back to my car and continued home. Of all the things I accomplished Tuesday that rescue was the most important. I saved a life.
I opened the photo (below) on my laptop. Someone looking at this photo might think it’s a close-up and the turtle wasn’t that big. Then I saw the pinecone in front. The pinecone was about three and a half inches long. A dinner plate was too small. I went to the kitchen and pulled out an oval platter. That was more like it. The snapper’s shell was perhaps ten inches by twelve inches. Add a few inches for neck, tail and legs. That’s one mighty snapper.
Tonight, somewhere in Maryland, a family sat down to dinner. One person turns to the other. “I saw the strangest thing along the road on the way home tonight, honey,” they say. “There was this woman in a skirt.”
“And she was holding a turtle in the air.”
(written by Ann Arbaugh)