The Turtle Guy
Re-read the previous blog https://bethanybenike.wordpress.com/2015/10/10/turtles-and-dragonflies/ before reading this.
Driving back along highway 84, I stopped for one more turtle in the road, on the opposite side. I pulled the van over, parked it and put on the hazards. As I was trying to chase the turtle off the road, a man pulled up behind my van. Leaning out of his car, he said, “I hate to tell you this, but I’m going to take that turtle.” He stepped out of his car and came over. With expert hands he grabbed the turtle from the roadside vegetation. It was a good sized female Blanding’s turtle. He went on to explain he was conducting a study on the behavior of Blanding’s turtles. He pointed out a notch on the turtle’s shell, he had done years ago. Fascinated, I listened to him describe his turtle project. I politely asked, “What’s your name?” It turned out he was one of the people my friend Larry suggested I talk to for information on the Kellogg Weaver Dunes. To have randomly met him alongside the road was awesome. I said, “I have been meaning to meet you and perhaps talk to you about the dunes.” I told him about my interest in the natural history of the dunes. He was thrilled I had an interest in the dunes and was more than happy to meet with me to talk about his experiences.
The following week, I went back to the Kellogg Weaver Dunes to meet with the “turtle guy”. I rode along with him while he searched the roads one last time for nesting Blanding’s turtles. We were a little disappointed there were no more nesting Blanding’s turtles but we did see a painted turtle. We talked as we drove along. He told stories about his younger years on the dunes, briefly described how they had looked different then. Pointing to a stand of jack pines, he said, “those pines weren’t there. They were planted in the 1970s as a windbreak. Those trees need to come down. They confuse hatchling turtles leaving the nest.” He spoke with longing in his voice about the days when Blanding’s were so abundant, he’d catch thousands. He told fun stories about pursuing turtles. Of course he also talked about the studies he’s been doing, learning about behaviors of the Blanding’s turtles. Learning about how the turtles know where to go as nesting adults and hatchlings leaving the nest for water. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to absorb everything he said. However, before we parted ways we agreed to meet again so I could interview him with a voice recorder. On parting, he encouraged me to pursue my writing dreams.