I noticed the first one crossing the road just outside of Pelican Rapids. I gasped as the right front wheel of my son’s Camry missed her by inches. A few miles farther north, I spotted what looked from a distance to be a large hub cap in the other lane. Then, near Park Rapids, there was another enormous one that had met her fate.
It is turtle swerving season in Minnesota once more.
Between Fergus Falls and home, I counted almost two dozen turtles crossing the highway. I am happy to report that we were not responsible for murdering any of them even though the first one was really just lucky. When I see turtles squashed on the road I’m always puzzled. After all, how hard is it to avoid a turtle, for crying out loud? It isn’t as if they line up in the tall grass along the highway, wait for a car to approach and then dart out just for kicks! You almost have to want to hit a turtle.
Last weekend I took the dog for a walk up at the lake. Maggie isn’t impressed with turtles in the slightest and so, even when we came upon one laying eggs, she refused to make eye contact and just snuffled past, minding her own business. Being a momma turtle looks like a lot of work to me. All that digging of holes with your back legs takes forever, for one thing. Then you lay a bunch of eggs and have to push all the sand you just dug out back into the hole. And then, after you’ve spent like an entire afternoon working, you still have to try to make back to the river without getting squashed along the way. Then, there’s a very high probability that a skunk is going to show up as just soon as the moon rises to dig your eggs up and eat them before your eggs even get to be actual turtles.
Back before the health department put the fear of salmonella poisoning into the hearts and minds of every mother in America, every dime store had an aquarium filled with baby red ear turtles for sale. If you are old enough to remember begging your own mother to buy you one, you also probably remember that raising a red ear turtle was a lot harder than it looked. They usually ended up floating, rather than swimming, in their little plastic turtle dishes with the fake palm trees a lot sooner than anyone expected. We only had one that survived infancy. He was a good climber and one night, after what must have taken a lot of planning, he made his escape. In the morning, when we went to feed him his turtle flakes, he was AWOL from his dish.
For weeks, we looked for him throughout the house under beds and behind the curtains, wondering where he could possibly have gone. We looked high and low for that turtle. We sniffed around for a decaying turtle corpse. We wondered if some sort of Turtle Rapture had taken him off the planet in a blinding flash of light while we slept, completely unaware.
Then, months later, he was discovered behind the washer and dryer in the basement. He was a whole lot dustier than we remembered, but still very much alive. Somehow, he’d managed to make it down two flights of stairs after his escape and had survived on basement bugs throughout the long, cold, winter. We scooped him up and deposited back in his dish, glad to see him. However, he’d tasted freedom and was never quite the same after that, I’m sad to say.
Perhaps turtles are bigger thrill seekers than we think they are.