I have always been a self-proclaimed turtle rescuer. Every spring and summer these slow little dinosaurs make their way from point A to whatever they imagine as point B. Unfortunately, it seems there is often a busy road between the two points. When I see a turtle in the road, I am quick to offer assistance in getting it to safety.
One spring I was moving from one house to another. It was a Saturday and I had managed to enlist the aid of a few friends to help me move some of the smaller stuff. As I was making the drive to pick up another load of boxes from my old house, I noticed a turtle just outside of my new neighborhood on a fairly busy road. Now this particular turtle happened to be an alligator snapping turtle–not the friendliest or most docile turtles in the world. Rescuing these guys can be tricky, but a turtle is a turtle, so I grabbed a pair of gloves (not likely helpful at all in the event he succeeded in grabbing my finger) and hurried to his rescue.
On one side of the road there was a big empty field. The other side of the road had lots of trees, brush and a creek.That seemed, to me, to be a far more turtle-friendly place to go, so I moved him that direction. Mission accomplished, I hopped back in my car.
On the return trip I was completely dismayed to see the same darn turtle sitting in nearly the same darn spot in the middle of the road. “Don’t you know what’s good for you?” I scolded as I once again risked life and limb…or at least digit…to move him toward the creek a second time.
Mission accomplished again, I went to the new house to unload my car. There I told my friends about the frustrating turtle who seemed determined to get smashed in the road. One friend laughed and said, “Nancy, what’s the first joke you ever learned?”
I thought for a moment and said, “Why did the chicken cross the road…”
So I drove back through the neighborhood to the busy road where, yes, there sat the turtle once again. I got out, put on my placebo gloves, and, despite not seeing the appeal of a big empty field, moved the now testy snapping turtle to the other side of the road. I never saw him again.
Lessons learned? Don’t try to tell a snapping turtle that you know what’s best for him, and maybe, just maybe, I really did learn everything I need to know in kindergarten.