Posted by: Shanna Germain | 10/08/2009

Pg. 171: Turtle Crossing


Texas turtle tries to traverse the transom. Takes a terrible tumble.

Say that ten times fast. I dare you.


I’ve always loved things that creep and slither and crawl (minus, of course, spiders and, most recently, ticks). Snakes have always held a special appeal to me (except for garter snakes, but that’s only because they smell so incredibly bad when you handle them). When I was living in the dorms while getting my two-year degree, the guys down the hall from us had this gorgeous and gigantic snake. Of course, snakes (and every other pet except, apparently, ants and bees) were prohibited. The only time anyone cared was when we had fire drills. Which we had A LOT. The snake couldn’t stay in her cage, because the firemen could possibly notice this eight-foot, big-around-as-my-thigh, bright yellow creature curled up in a dorm room. So, what did the boys do with her? Typically, they wrapped her around my body beneath my winter coat. It would be two in the morning, and I’d be standing in the parking lot in my pajamas and my long winter coat, this slithering creature coiling herself around my torso and arms. It’s one of my favorite memories of that particular college, actually, even better than the four a.m. watergun fights (yes, our rooms locked, but you could pick them with your student ID card in about half a second) or my roommate’s boyfriend teaching her how to drive a stick shift (they weren’t in a car at the time, FYI. I’ll leave the rest to you to figure out).

Turtles are a close second in the slithery/crawly competition. When I was a kid, it seems like we always had a couple of turtles living in a kiddie pool on our porch during the summers. We fed them live snails we collected from the ditch, which they ate with a relish that always amazed me, the way they’d pull them from our fingers and crunch them down. We let them go sometime in fall, although I can’t remember where now, come to think of it. Probably in one of the many ponds that were nearby.



Turtle who got in the way of the road. Notice the blood on the upper right hand corner of his shell. Poor thing.


A few days ago, while Friend R and I were out walking, we noticed something odd in the road. A turtle, all shelled up, that seemed to be getting very very lucky — while we were standing there, at least fifteen cars drove over him, not once actually hitting it with a wheel. “We have to get him,” I said. “He’s going to get squished.” But at the moment, the traffic was too crazy — flying by, fast and furious. I flinched each time a car went over him, fearing that he really was going to get crunched by a huge wheel while we watched. But then there was a break in the traffic and I ran out into the road and picked him up.

Only to discover that he’d already been hit — his shell was bleeding (I have to admit, I didn’t even know turtle shells could bleed), and that his right foot was at an awkward angle, as though it might have gotten run over as well. I carried him over into the nearby field, and laid him down beneath the tree. I don’t know if he’ll survive, but I sent him off with a silent good will and a lot of hope.

I have to admit that I feel even more kinship with turtles now, after having traveled around for more than half a year, while dragging my “house” around with me. There are days when I, too, feel like I’m trying to traverse a big, scary highway with lots of cars whizzing around me, hoping that I make it to the other side without getting crunched. When I feel like I’m moving slower than everyone else and it’s just a matter of time before I get hit by something insurmountable, and find myself spinning around like a top, bouncing from danger to danger. And on those days, I sure could use a couple of kind hands, reaching out, helping me up and putting me in a place that’s soft and cool and safe.

Kiss kiss bang bang, s.


“Looking for peace is like looking for a turtle with a mustache: You won’t be able to find it. But when your heart is ready, peace will come looking for you.” ~Ajahn Chah



  1. i always had a love for snakes…and actually had a lot of snakes, frogs and lizzards during my teenager years…as well as scorpions and several kinds of butterflies…i stopped heaving them aspets..or better say having pets at all when i moved out of my parents house and started to travel a lot…but still..i love the warm and smooth surface of the snakeskin…or to feel the way the snake muscles contract when its wind sup my arm….

    last year my cousin and me found a turtle near a lake was huge…usually we dont ahve turtles in it must have been escaped from somewhere…

    and a couple of years ago when i spend a hot dry summer with my friend melissa in athens we met a lot of turtles…we were hanging out in the ethnikos kipos..the national garden..a green oasis in the middle of the old city of athens…were we lay all day long on the green ..drinking talking..and actually painting turtle toe nails with melissas chanel nail polish…i know i know..but i was just 17 and didnt knew better….

  2. I raised turtles for quite some time as a hobby, and often friends would bring turtles that had been injured in some way, in the hopes I could do something for them.

    I quickly learned that turtles are much stronger than you think. They can survive things that you might never expect they would get through. I’ve seen turtles with their shells completely broken, turtles with bite wounds, and turtles with skin conditions so bad they hardly looked like turtles. But with time and some tender care, they healed up. Even turtles who have lost a leg will soon learn to navigate properly with the other three, so they can still move in a straight line.

    Sometimes they just need a bit of time, and maybe a bit of petting and attention, but before you know it they are stronger than they were before they got injured, and they will make it crystal clear when it’s time to let them go.

    So…yeah. The turtle you saved will be absolutely fine. Perhaps better than fine.

    And, without a doubt, so will you. 🙂

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