Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Operation Turtle Rescue

After a busy day of working at the Habitat for Humanity office, my mom and I were finally heading home. We were on our way through Hart, on one of the "busiest" (read: multiple cars in sight at one time) roads in the town, when I spotted him in front of the grocery store.

"Look mom! It's a turtle!" I yelled, forgetting that she was less than a foot away from me.

"And he's still alive," my mom said in surprise. "What's he doing out here?" The nearest water source was at least half a mile away.

"Mom, we have to rescue him," I insisted. At this point, my mom had already swerved to miss hitting him, and we were past. Fortunately, my mom is as interested in the welfare of turtles as I am, or maybe she just humors me.

She pulled a u-turn in the next side street and we drove back just in time to see him get clipped by a passing minivan. I saw visions of blood, gore, and flattened heads as his shell tumbled over and over in the road.

"OH NO," I yelled. I was distraught. I had come so close to saving him.

"We'll go look," my mom said, turning in another side street. My mom is a master of u-turns in random places.

"I don't want to see," I moaned miserably. "His head is squished. I saw blood." (I hadn't seen blood.) At this point, I was near tears. I was a failure at turtle rescue, and God and the entire planet probably hated me.

"There he is," said my mom, as we pulled up to him yet again. "Look! He's moving!"

I pulled my head from my hands to see that he was, indeed, crawling determinedly toward the edge of the road again, and of course putting himself right in the way of car tires. I was galvanized into action. Barely waiting for my mom to stop the vehicle, I leapt out into the lane and snatched him. He appeared unscathed. I reveled in my unexpected victory.

"Nice turtle!" yelled a man passing in a minivan, who had clearly witnessed the entire drama. I held my prize up in elation. It occurred to me later that he may have possibly been making fun of me. I didn't care.

I climbed back into the car with my new friend and examined him as we drove away. There didn't appear to be any damage to his shell, a miracle in itself. I don't think many creatures could be hit by a minivan and come away completely unscathed. I'd thought he was a painted turtle, but upon closer inspection, I saw a profusion of yellow spots and a bright yellow chin, and his shape was wrong. I guessed he was a spotted turtle. When we got home, we put him in a bucket to await the arrival of my dad, the master of nature and inspector of all captured animals.

Dusk found my family of four standing around the bucket looking at the turtle. "Could be a Blanding's, he has the right pattern for it," I said, frowning.

"The shape is wrong though, and his head is different," countered my dad. "Either way, you'd better go let him go before the DNR finds out we're keeping endangered reptiles in our garage."

I laughed, but carried my new friend across the street to Hart Lake. I was in our neighbor's lawn, and I set the turtle at the edge of the grass. There was a veritable cliff down to the lake, and I was worried about him.

"Dad, I can't put him here!" I called. "He'll fall down the cliff!"

"Holli, he got hit by a minivan and he's fine!" my dad yelled back in exasperation. "I think he can handle the slope to the lake!"

Even with my dad's remonstration, I considered waking down the steps and putting him directly in the lake. That, however, would have put me right behind my neighbor's house, on their porch almost, and I didn't really want to explain what I was doing in their yard in the evening wearing cutoff pajama pants and an enormous t-shirt. I put the turtle down in the grass, but pointed him toward the gentler slope toward the lake, rather than the cliff through the woods.

The last I saw of him, he was crawling determinedly over the lawn on his way to safety, and I'm feeling good about my contributions to nature and the saving of endangered species.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


The four of us were sitting around the dining room table, the remains of dinner still out, full bellies increasing the length of conversation until someone summoned the motivation to get up.

My dad turned to me in sudden excitement.

"Hey, did you hear about the new neighbor-" he began. I interrupted him.

"You mean the bear?" I asked. My parents looked at me in astonishment.

"You've only been home for a day," said my mom.

"The librarian told me," I said, a trifle smugly. They continued to stare at me. "What? She heard it from the postman."

"Which librarian?" asked my dad incredulously.

"The nice one," I said. "That goes to our church."

"Oh, okay," he replied. "It didn't seem like any of the other ones would've cared to tell you."

"It seems like you're fitting back into small town life well," grumbled my mom, possibly referring to the fact that the librarian knew exactly who I was and where I live, and that there had been bear sightings in my neighborhood.

"I want to see the bear!" I exclaimed. "I didn't see any in South Dakota, and I think it's my turn to see one."

"Well-" my mom began, but my dad cut across her.

"I'll put some food out back for it!" he said in excitement. "Oh! and I bet I could get some old donuts to put out for it too!" He caught on to the fact that my mom was glaring at him. "What?"

"We are not putting bait out for the bear!" she said firmly. "Do you want it going through our garbage?"

"Yes," my dad said belligerently. "Bears are uncommon. And it probably won't be around that long. And I want to see it!"

My parents both left the table without discussing the bear any more, but from the look on my dad's face, I think we can expect to see some random food out by the woods in our back yard. And for the record, I think my dad is quite right.

UPDATE: Apparently the police came and took the bear away. Sad day.