Monday, we were planting in the garden. Suddenly, our dog, Spencer started barking. He was standing in tall grass, barking at the ground. Allie, our other dog, stood by him. She wasn’t barking but intently looking at whatever disturbed Spencer. We told him to stop barking, he didn’t listen. Mom asked me to investigate; she thought perhaps they were tormenting a snake and if so I should rescue it. I walked briskly over to the dogs, curious as to what I would find. The grass was so tall and dense at first I couldn’t see anything. Then, I caught a glimpse of some color in the grass, dark, not black, but a very dark green, and a splash of yellow. It was a turtle! I was so excited to see it. Spencer put his paw on its shell. After scolding him, he backed up a little. I stooped down and carefully picked up the turtle. It had bright yellow stripes streaking its head and legs. It had beautiful orange on its plastron or underside. The middle of the plastron had an artistic pattern in the middle. Easily, I identified it as a painted turtle. The carapace or top of its shell, was smooth. There wear lines and creases in its scutes. Dark green algae had dried to its shell. The claws on both front and hind feet were long and elongated. The turtle was slightly larger than my palm. It tucked its head, legs and tail tightly into its shell. I walked back to the garden with it to show mom. Warily, it watched us, sometimes poking its head out just a little. Holding it was exhilarating, it felt incredible, the shape felt intriguing. There is nothing like a turtle in shape, texture and being covered in a shell. It was so fascinating; I wanted to take it in longer, the feel of its domed shell. What was the poor turtle thinking? Actually the look on its face indicated it was unimpressed.
Relocating it to another pond would have to wait until later; instead I found a bucket to keep it safe. As I was carrying it the long distance to the yard, the turtle became wiggly, overcoming its fear with desire to get away. Its head and legs were out. It kicked against my hand repeatedly. Though its claws weren’t sharp enough to puncture skin, they still hurt scraping across my hands. I put enough water in the bucket to cover the turtle then place it gently in the bottom. It had a luxury hotel, under the apple trees.
I chose to walk to the far pond carrying the turtle in the bucket. Before I set out, I showed the turtle to a couple of my nieces and siblings. Isabel touched the turtle and seemed to find it curious. Bernadette was a bit confused and therefore wasn’t sure what to think about the turtle. Allowing them at so young an age to touch the turtle and observe it will help foster a love for turtles, or at least an appreciation.
Black flies were swarming so thick, enjoying the walk to the pond was a little difficult. Often I swatted at the flies. I switched the bucket from one hand to the other many times. At first there was a nice path, but at the end of the rested pasture, the path soon filled with tall grass. I kept going a little further beyond the pasture before turning to my left, towards the fence. Carefully I placed the bucket on the other side of the fence, and then I crawled through the wires in the fence. Walking downhill on uneven ground while carrying a bucket of water and a turtle was challenging, I worried about tripping and spilling the turtle from the bucket. Somehow I managed to reach the bottom of the hill without falling despite the unseen brambles trying to snare my feet. The way to the pond was a long trek through tall goldenrod plants; it felt like I was wading through them. Finally, I reached the pond, so excited to release my painted friend. To my bitter disappointment, the pond was completely dry; the dirt was cracked like a desert. It wasn’t a good place to release a turtle. Instead of making the long trek back, I asked my brother to pick us up at the bottom of the hill. Later, mom and I decided we would release the turtle at a nearby tributary of the Whitewater River but waited until the following morning. I apologized to the turtle, explaining we would give it a beautiful home, in wonderful turtle habitat.
The next morning, Mom and I took the turtle to the river. The morning was beautiful and quiet. We walked along a trail at the river’s edge. A great blue heron flew up from the river ahead of us. It was incredible to be so close to such a huge, majestic looking bird. We followed the trail for a while before we came to the perfect spot for our turtle. I set it down in shallow water. It didn’t move right away, perhaps regaining balance from the spinning in the bucket. Slowly, it began to crawl into the water, pushing itself forward with its clawed feet. Soon it began to swim away, shortly after it was nearly camouflaged in the river. It was wonderful to see the turtle placed in a good home. I had known it for less than twenty four hours, yet with my love of reptiles, I was reluctant to say goodbye and walk away. A strong desire to stay and watch the turtle filled me. Before long we turned back, the turtle would be safe and happy here.