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Thursday, August 07, 2014

The Turtle

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Tuesday night I was on my way home, driving through the middle of Canyon, Texas, on the main drag, which I do practically every time I go home.

What was different this night was just after I passed the busiest intersection in town I caught sight of a turtle.

The road at this point is two lanes south bound (of which I was in one), two lanes north bound, separated by a turning lane, so five total lanes of traffic. About two thirds of the way across the turning lane, heading west, was a turtle.

Where he came from, where he was going, how he had managed to get where he was (apparently having survived crossing the two north bound lanes to get there) I will obviously never know.

The simple thing to do was to say "not my problem" and continue on my way, but of course I could not do that. The first chance I got I reversed direction and pulled into the parking lot of the Wendy's that was close to where I had seen the turtle. The parking lot was crowded, so I had to park much further from the turtle than I liked, because I cannot run anymore on my legs. I still strode back to the turtle's general location as quickly as I could. Arriving, I could see the turtle had "hunkered down." He was not making any more forward progress (when I first saw him he was in motion), and as I was waiting for a break in traffic a large red SUV passed over him, the wheels on the vehicle's passenger side appearing to miss him by less than a foot. A break in the traffic (allowing for my slow means of locomotion, my younger self would have gotten there much sooner) finally appeared and I reached the turtle and picked him up.

Now what?

This was not a matter of helping him across the street. We are in the middle of town, almost literally. I cannot take him home, but I am now somewhat responsible for him. A quick examination showed some damage to him along the lower left side (oozing blood, but not pumping it out), but his shell otherwise appeared intact (but he would be darned before he came out of his shell while I was holding him, he had probably already had quite enough excitement, thank you very much). There was a kind of "thrift shop" nearby, and I went there and asked for a box to put him in. Since I was going to be transporting him in my car, I did not want him to ooze blood on my seat or floor, and there was always a chance that fear would finally cause him to "void" which again was something I did not want to deal with in my car.

Having secured a box, I put the turtle in it, and took him to my car. From there, I drove down to Southeast Park, parking as far from "civilization" in the park as I could, I walked with the box down to the edge of a marshy area. Turtles tend to be herbivorous, and there was plenty of flora, and plenty of nearby water where I set him down. As he had come out of his shell briefly during the drive to the park, exploring the box looking for an escape I am sure, I knew he was still alive and active. He had retreated back into his shell when I picked the box up to move him, and having now taken him out of the box and set him down I backed up a few paces and waited.

After a minute or two he extended his head as far as he could and raised it to look around. Then he extended his legs and moved off deeper into the brush. I then realized one mistake I had made. I had set him down facing west, his original direction of travel, and he moved off in that direction. If there was something he was trying to get to in that direction, then he was again on his way and would again be attempting to cross the main road in Canyon in a day or two.

I do not know, however, what his fate will be. I only know I did the best I could for him under the circumstances. I do not know if I did in fact save his life and he will live well from that point, or if I saved him from a relatively quick death (being run over) only to condemn him to  a lingering death from his injury becoming infected. I can only hope that he will have as full a life as he can manage in the park, as I will doubtless never see him again.

When I got home, I did immediately wash my hands as there is always a risk of picking something up from an animal in such circumstances.

I will no doubt soon forget the incident, as it is not the only time in my life I have intervened in the life of some animal or other in trouble. Sometimes all I could do is administer a coup de grace when the animal's injuries were obviously unsurvivable and spare it a painful lingering death. I soon forget these incidents, until attempting another such act of kindness like this one causes me to reflect on the others.