Run like the wind Buford

Published 5:58 pm Thursday, August 29, 2013

Hands up, how many among us have actually stopped and stepped out of our cars to move a turtle across the road?

Present and accounted for, sir.

I must do some turtle googling to find exactly why it is that turtles choose to leap in front of us this time of year- is it the mating season? How awkward that must be for the bachelor male turtle:

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“Shall we go back to your place or mine?”

“Well, Buford, as we both have our places on our backs, we’ll have to go to both our places.”

Or is it to escape swampy areas after a deluge of rain, for higher ground? Not that they seem to be in any great rush in their escape, but then, I’m not a turtle. Perhaps as they’re crossing the roads they are displaying what is considered to be a reptilian mach three. At any rate, at least they continue in one direction, making them relatively easy to dodge, unlike squirrels, clearly the meth addicts of the animal kingdom.

So, turtles are on the move and I can’t think that there is a single one of us that doesn’t feel compassion coming across a shattered and squashed turtle in the road and, because they are so very slow, we feel compelled to assist them, as if we were boy scouts, to cross safely.

My farrier friend, Anthony, was doing just this a couple of weeks ago. Anthony is a kind and considerate soul, always available to tack back on a shoe that’s been thrown by a horse and, afterwards, with a wave of the hand when money is offered, replies, “Don’t worry about it; we’ll settle up later.”

Spotting him stocking up on shoes and nails at the feed store, I was good-naturedly instructed to call him, by one of the employees, “Turtle Herder.”

“Really? Why is that?” I said to Anthony.

Grinning, he replied, “That’s my new nickname, ever since they found out I stopped to help a big old snapping turtle out of the road.”

“Jewels in your crown, sir,” I smiled. “Good for you.”

Running a hand through his hair he said, “Well, not really. I ended up killing it. I was trying to save it but I killed it. I felt awful.”

“How on earth…”

“Well,” he explained, “I jumped out of my truck to pick it up and put it over on the other side and there was a truck coming up behind me.”

“It ran the turtle over?” I cried, dismayed.

“No,” he said. “Even worse. The guy jumped out and said, ‘are ya gonna eat it’ and I thought he was joking and said ‘no.’ So then the guy grabs it, throws it in the back of his truck and took off. I guess a lot of folks around here eat those big turtles.”

A lot of folks do, actually. I’ve even been invited to a dinner where a Buford was to be the main course. It was with great relief that I was able to politely decline on the grounds of being a vegetarian, although that didn’t stop the continuing overtures as the husband then gruffly told me, “You have yourself some of this turtle soup and that’ll put an end to that vegetarian crap right there!”

Well, alrighty then.

I felt very sad for that snapping turtle. Although they have a reputation for belligerence when out of the water and are known to viciously attack ducklings from beneath, when they’re in, being tossed in the back of the hot bed of a truck seemed a rather sad way to end when a snapping turtle has a life expectancy of a good 40 years.

Heading home and turning onto my one lane street, sure enough, there trundling across the road was a small turtle which, as a truck passed over it, going the opposite direction, drew in its head and clamped itself shut in fear.

Well, what are ya gonna do?

“For all the Bufords in the world, fella,” I said, picking him up and carrying him to the tall grass on the other side, “Now run. Run like the wind.”