Death of an Ancient One

As a kid, I found any morning walk to my bus stop after a heavy rain daunting. Neither me or my earthworm friends were very happy. I couldn’t bear to watch the endless sea of pinkish-brown bodies wriggling on the wet blacktop. Whenever this upsetting scene accosted my eyes, my inner-tomboy morphed into a worm-plucking machine. Running in a serpentine pattern, I’d grab as many worms as my little hands could carry. Then onto the nearest lawn went the hapless earthworms. I’d continue saving worms until the bus arrived. Once seated, I’d wipe my dirty hands on my navy-blue knee socks so the nuns couldn’t think I’d been digging for the devil.

I don’t save earthworms much these days. I’d like to think that over the last forty years their little earthworm brains have evolved and they’re better equipped at saving themselves. I’ve since taken up offering roadside assistance to bewildered dogs. To prepare myself for this challenge, a nylon leash is stowed in my car and I watch The Dog Whisperer, whenever I can. To date I’m happy to report-I’ve reunited several lost pooches with their owners (though one little dog with oddly big teeth scared the crap out of me).

Bringing me to the reptile saving. A few years back there was an incident which compels me to save turtles for the rest of my life. I learned a terrible, horrible and valuable lesson. Every spring where I live many turtles venture out onto the road. While driving the tank, if I happen to spy a slow-moving shell I pull over and return the turtle to safety.

On this particular spring day several years ago, I’d been rushing to collect the big son (who was much smaller at the time) from elementary school. We had to find a birthday gift then get to a party. On the way to his school, a large snapping turtle – the kind that live 150 years – was making his way across the road. He was better than halfway and the road was not heavily trafficked. A fleeting thought entered my mind, “Pull the car over and make sure the turtle gets across.” Followed by the next fleeting thought, “No time. Everyone will see that giant turtle. It’s impossible not too. He’ll be fine.” I continued on my journey feeling nary a twinge of guilt. I picked up the big son and we proceeded to Target.

On the return ride, my jaw dropped open, my mouth hung agape. I was in disbelief. The huge, ancient, beautiful turtle didn’t make it across the road. I was broken-hearted but the guilt was far worse. I vowed from that day forward, much to the giant husband’s chagrin, to save every single turtle or reptile, no matter the time, place or situation.

I will admit that picking up and carrying that giant snapping turtle last year was not very smart, but the darn thing wasn’t moving fast enough and I had to help him cross the road.

turtle head/Prisma

turtle head/Prisma

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8 thoughts on “Death of an Ancient One

  1. This one made me smile! My 8 year old daughter is a worm saver/activist/lover. She will go digging for them just to keep them as pets in a plastic container of mud for a while. Her first experience with them was her first time fishing when she was oh, around 2..? She grew very attached to a few and wouldn’t let Uncle Sal use them as bait!
    Secondly, we actually rescued a desert tortoise from a busy neighborhood street 2 years ago and he lives with us. He’s escaped twice now to go hibernate among the bushes around our complex, but after many prayers he’s returned after a few months of rest! It’s probably what he was trying to do when we ‘rescued’ him… ha!

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    • What a wonderful daughter you’ve got! I’m sure she gets her passion from her wonderful mom.
      Turtles are such characters – if you get bored hanging out with them, you can go catch a movie and have dinner only to return and observe them maybe five feet further along 😉
      I’m so glad you saved a turtle. Truth be told, every spring I think about the turtle I didn’t help and the outcome. I’m on constant watch now (but of course always keep my eyes on the road as I don’t want to be the one harming anything)
      Thanks so much for reading – it means a lot 🙂
      AnnMarie
      ps I also saved many mice during a Girl Scout trip

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  2. One day a friend and I were walking the beach in San Francisco. You know, the beach that faces out into 5000 miles of pacific ocean? We saw an odd lump that seemed to be moving, just entering the surf, and we decided to investigate. Turned out it was a turtle headed out to sea. But it was not a sea turtle. It was clearly the fresh water variety. We were really quite puzzled, because in order for this turtle (which was not very big and was quite slow moving) to get into the surf, it would have had to cross perhaps a mile of wooded Golden Gate Park, the busy main artery know as Great Highway (Route 1), down the cement steps of the boardwalk onto the sand, and then across the expanse of sand and into the surf. We couldn’t fathom it, all in broad daylight, and without anyone interfering or running over him. We rescued the turtle, and brought him to a lovely big freshwater pond in Golden Gate Park, quite far from the beach, where he was sure to have plenty of turtle friends. This involved a short drive, but we wanted to discourage him from trying again, so we figured a little distance would be good. For my trouble, the turtle peed on my sneakers while I held him in the car. I have decided this is turtle language for “thanks.”

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  3. Good morning AnnMarie..lotsl of good luck with your 15 teenagers party today…wish I were there to help…I loved the blog and photos of the teens…it is really funny…Love you, MOM

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    • So glad to hear that! I only helped one this year. Other than the one little gal, I haven’t seen many. I hope the turtles are doing okay. There was just an article in our local paper “Why Turtles Cross the Road.” According to the article – the ‘crossees’ are primarily females searching for places to lay eggs. Turtles imprint on the place they grew up – I never knew!
      Have a wonderful day and thank you very much for visiting my little corner 🙂
      AnnMarie

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