A week or so ago, we were sitting on the front porch watching the traffic out on the lake, when a fellow “beacher” from down the way came by, rather excited, with his small terrier on its leash. He told us that a very large snapping turtle was lying in the middle of the lane in back of the cottages, apparently having crawled from the green, slimy swamp on the other side of the lane.
Sure enough, as we went around to the back, the big turtle, covered with lime green swamp slime, was sprawled right in the center of the dirt lane, causing my wife to go get a long-handled rake from the storeroom to move the prehistoric critter back off the lane and into the weeds in front of the swamp to prevent it from being hit by a car or truck.
With a good amount of prodding and nudging with the handle of the rake, Carolyn was able to turn the snapper (it wasn’t very happy about all this attention!) and it slowly plodded into the weeds, disappearing from our sight.
This turtle “journey” seems to be a once-a-summer occurrence as turtles of various sizes make their appearance right about this time, and are either making their way from the lake to the swamp, or from the swamp to the lake.
Obviously, this old relic, whom our neighbor dubbed “Brutus,” had its destination set for the lake, a good fifty yards from where he’d been resting in the middle of the lane. Although its quest to make it to the open waters of the lake had been thwarted by my wife’s dextrous rake handling skills, at least the turtle was safe and back in familiar environs.
Our good humanitarian deed complete, we went back about the business of chatting on the porch and figured that was the last of our cumbersome friend from the swamp.
Fast forward a week or so and imagine the feeling of déjà vu that hit me front and center when I happened to glance out onto the dirt lane late one afternoon and see our determined, algae-covered snapping turtle once more at rest, obviously intent on finishing what it wasn’t allowed to do the first time.
And thinking the same thoughts about assisting it out of harm’s way with our trusty rake once again, I got up to do just that. I don’t know if turtles can read minds, but at this precise moment, it raised up on large, stocky legs and actually lumbered onto the grass and traveled a good distance—at a pretty good clip—to where I watched from the screened porch of the cottage, near the edge of the slope that leads down to the lake.
After a while, the old turtle stopped and lowered itself once more, probably to rest and check its GPS for the best route to pursue to the water ahead. I went on about my important business of reading and thinking about the need to get my writing routine jump-started once again, and every now and then would look out the side screen to check on my intrepid, plodding friend.
I could see that it was nearly halfway up the grassy yard between the cottages, and about this time it rose again and moved along some more, nearly reaching my Weber grill and plastic lawn chairs a short distance from the edge of the slope. Tired out, it dropped down again and lay there for nearly an hour.
It’s amazing how certain events trigger thoughts of all kinds. It was just me this time, the wife having returned to our home in Illinois, and next-door cottage neighbor, John, was out on an afternoon pontoon run, so there was no one immediately to share any thoughts with. Just me!
What came to mind was a short story my 8th grade literature students read years ago about a grandfather and two young grandsons, who are driving along, and come upon a turtle in the center of the highway. Though I can’t recall all of the details very well, I do remember that the boys, in all of their youthful exuberance, want to kill the turtle and eagerly look for sticks or rocks to carry out that deed. But it’s Grandpa’s wisdom that prevents any of that from happening.
He tells them something to the effect that it would be easy to defeat the large, helpless creature, lying there out of its natural environment, but they should consider turning things around and realize what it would be like if they were in the water—the turtle’s domain—and see who would have the advantage then.
I think the boys learned a wonderful life lesson, and they actually helped the turtle from the highway and gained a greater appreciation for life and all of God’s creatures—great and small—that populate the world we pass through. I wish I could remember the author of the story, or even the title. I tend to think it was titled “The Turtle,” but that was a long time ago. But it was obviously a very good short story.
As late-afternoon became dusky twilight, and I was in the midst of eating my leftover meatloaf on the porch, the ancient turtle decided it was time to move on and leave Weber grills and plastic lawn chairs and curious humans behind. And so, with a concerted effort and a few more creaky exertions, “Brutus” made it over the slope and into the thick brush and down to the water’s edge in a relatively short time.
Soon, there was a splash, and I hurried out to see the determined turtle easily and smoothly swimming out alongside our pier and then under the deck fifty feet from shore, disappearing
into the safety of its own world.
Best wishes out there, Brutus! ….CortlandWriter