Little Turtle Saviour
Tromping down the path round the lake, near the end of the circle before the grassy snake in the lake knoll, PP is thinking about swimming of course, and how she’s gonna go to the Y later since she can’t swim in the lake—at least not right now--when what does she spy right in the middle of the trail?
A sweet little Lake Turtle!
He’s just frozen there. In the middle of the trail. And this is a LONG way from the watery home of the lake.
“What are you doin all the way up here, Little Guy?” she asks, as she kneels down next to him and looks him in the turtle eye, or she thinks she does. It’s hard to tell with a turtle. But what she can tell is that he seems distressed. His little yellow throat is pulsing rapidly and he’s not moving at all.
Should he be out of the water? she wonders. Do these Lake Turtles often take strolls out on the trails? Maybe there’s a little turtle luncheon happening on the other side of the trail, and he’s just heading over for a delicious buffet of dead bugs and spiders.
But....somehow, it feels wrong to her, like he shouldn’t be out of the lake. That he might not make it back into the lake; it’s so far away. (At least 10 –15 yards, she thinks—PP is terrible at gauging such things!)
What to do? If she just leaves him, and lets nature take its course and he doesn’t make it back to the lake but ends up just dying on the trail and she were to stumble upon his little lifeless shell on her walk tomorrow, how bad would she feel?
(PP remembers on one of her early walks around the lake before the hurricane, when she’d come upon two tiny lifeless upside down little turtle shells on the path by the prairie grasses--they were very far away from the lake. It was so sad! They were just little tiny babies!)
So now, this image of the dead baby turtles flashes in her mind and she decides to take action. But what if it’s the wrong action? What if she moves This Turtle into the lake and he just sits there and his little shell fills up with water and he drowns? Maybe he’s sick? And he won’t be able to swim?
Damn. There’s no Lindsey Wildlife Center here at Snake Lake—or maybe there is but she doesn’t know where or oh.....what to do?
She decides to try picking him up. If he lets her, then she’ll go ahead and put him back in the lake. (How would he not let her? It’s not like turtles can yell at you, “Put me down!”)
So, she wraps her hands round his shell, (He’s a fairly big turtle, maybe 6” across--not a tiny baby like the ones she saw before) and of course, he immediately goes into his hide in the shell mode. All four legs, and his little scrawny head, disappear.
Okay, this seemed normal at least. Maybe he wasn’t sick.
So she carefully lifts him off the trail and cautiously walks down the grassy slope to the muddy waters at the edge of the lake. Damn. This is the snake in the lake territory. What if the snake appears and eats the little turtle before he can swim away?
Oh, but he has his shell. So maybe the snake can’t hurt him, right?
This was so complicated and harrowing, being the rescuer of a little wayward turtle who may very well have been perfectly fine on the trail. Yet the image of the little dry upside down shells kept popping into her mind. She had to do something!
She sets him down in the water. He doesn’t move and so his shell starts to fill up with water. Fast! Damn. Quickly, she retrieves him. What if he’s hurt and can’t swim? Hell what if he isn’t even a lake turtle but a land turtle and he doesn’t belong in the lake at all. She’s no turtle expert!
Holding him aloft again, he’s still hiding inside his shell, she places him in the muddy part of the lake so he can touch ground at least and then stands back and watches.
He doesn’t move at all.
Oh dear! She’s probably traumatized him and he’ll never swim again.Or she's contaminated him with her human cooties and all the other turtles will ostracize him from future turtle luncheons!
It's all so awful! What has she done?
PP stands on the shore staring at the turtle for what seems like hours, but maybe it’s only 5 minutes. One....two...three....four...five.....
She starts to feel like crying. Why oh why doesn't he swim away....?
Then....finally... he moves! Yah! His little head pokes out and his little feet start to crawl in the mud and he makes a little progress to some yucky moss stuff and then he stops. Hiding here...
He’s sick, she thinks, and she can’t even reach him and oh no, now what can she do?
Again, she waits....and waits...and....
He MOVES again! And this time the little head pops up and the little legs start moving vigorously and he’s off and in the lake, going deeper and looking like the little expert swimmer that he is!
Praise Our Lord Jesus Christ as they say around here! He is the Turtle Saviour!
She is so relieved as she watches him paddle out and under a big bunch of lake branches hanging from a fallen tree, that she finally remembers to breathe.
“Bye-bye little turtle,” she calls after him, beaming. “Have a good swim in the lake!”
And he does. She's sure of it.
She just hopes that she didn't screw up his Bug Buffet!