Thou Shalt Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Turtle

I’m kinda odd when it comes to what kinds of animals and while I love a good fuzzy furry faced, I’m also enchanted by the scaly, scaled and shelled ones. And particular among the ‘others’ are turtles. I love turtles.

When we put our first pond in, we got two Red Ear Sliders. They were cool. They didn’t hide from us and it was fascinating to watch them on the log sunning themselves. Then came the fateful day when the neighborhood delinquent stole our turtles. I was heartsick. I played out in my brain all the horrible things he was doing to my turtles. And while my turtles never once showed a glimmer of emotion on their turtle faces, I imagined them crying out and making all sorts of God-awful faces as this creep tortured them.

My husband is more of a take action kind of guy. He collared his nephew and made him give up the turtle napper’s name and telephone number. He called and threatened a visit from the locals if the turtles didn’t magically reappear. He’s very effective. He retrieved my kitten once from some kids who had her in a box. It was one of those “Is that your cat?” “I didn’t think so cause it’s my cat.” “Give me my cat.” And away he went with my kitten. This is why the man is a God to me. He saves things for me.

Over the years, we tried to keep turtles outside and always they reverted back to their wild ways and left the safety of our back yard. One particular Box Turtle usually wound up at the car wash below my house where the neighbors would find him and bring him back. One time another Box turtle visited us for the weekend. I was cleaning the upstairs when my husband yelled “Did you bring home another turtle?” I replied, “I thought you did.” Most people have those types of conversations over paying bills, bringing home dinner or picking up the kids. Not us. We want to know about the turtle. Our weekend guest judged us too intrusive and left by Monday.

We’ve rescued turtles by helping them across the road. I’ve brought turtles to work to stay in a paper box until I could take them to the lake for release. My husband and his brother even carted a huge snapping turtle nearly 50 miles to release him at a state park. It didn’t work out very well, with the turtle catching air and hydroplaning out of the back of the boat they were towing and messing up the highway. But hey, it was all done with good intentions and no one got hurt. Well, obviously, the turtle got hurt. Fatally so. But no one else. Unless there was a car behind them. They were pretty sketchy on the details.

Probably my most curious turtle story is about the only turtle who got away. It was a few years ago and Son #2 and I were going to Johnstown. I had stopped at the drive thru and he was munching down on some fries and a burger and we were making our way at a nice little clip. I spied a turtle getting ready to cross the road and decided it was again time to try and keep one. I went a little further found a good space to make a U-ee and headed back to the spot we’d last seen him. Much to annoyance, another car was there and some toothy redneck was holding my turtle. He looked like he’d just come down outta the hills with a goofy ball cap advertising some kind of smokeless tobacco and hell maybe even bib overalls. I could hear Deliverance in the back of my head and decided to play it cool.

“Give me my turtle.” I said rather authoritatively.

“This here turtle? It’s not your turtle.” I swear to God, that’s what he said and he kinda drew out the ‘your’ and maybe added a few ‘e’s to it. Like yeuurrr. Did I mention he was missing some teeth?

“Yes, yes it is my turtle. I lost him.”

“Where?”

“At my house. Gimme.”

“I think I’m gonna keep this turtle.”

Clearly Jasper is playing with me. I need to up my game.

“You don’t know how to take care of a turtle. What they eat, where they nest. I do. Gimme.”

“Where do you live?”

“In town. Please can I have my turtle?”

“You’re a city slicker. You don’t got no turtle.”

At this point, freaking Jasper is holding my turtle up to whatever kind of creepy passenger is making a slimy shadow through the windshield. Like he just won the goddamn World Cup. If he would have taken off his shirt, I would have shot him.

It was becoming all to clear to me that I was losing this turtle. I was alone, Son#2 would be no help; he was feeling the affects of deep fried foods and was sluggish. I needed to cut my losses and get the hell outta there.

“Fine. Keep the f****ing turtle.” I say and speed out of the parking lot.

I fumed and bitched and railed on about this right until we were getting ready to hit the highway. Jasper, the crummy dirtball, comes parallel up to me in his beat up old Buick with a big stupid dirtball grin. I glare across at him and he’s holding my turtle on the steering wheel letting him drive! And he’s turning the wheel because most likely this car has more play in the steering than it should. He was mocking me!

If I would have had the Tank, I would have rammed him. As it was I had the good car and so I politely flipped him off and drove away, taking the on-ramp curve nearly on two wheels. The nerve of his guy rubbing his turtle victory in my face. I hope the goddamn thing bit him.

So I love turtles and I’m sorry that I couldn’t save that one from the gubby hands of old Jasper. I know the turtle probably wasn’t taken care of but I hope that he at least was eventually let go in good enough shape to survive. I don’t wish the same fate for Jasper!

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