Letter to my Son
Sunday, 14 July
|Eastern Box Turtle|
Good Morning Justin…
Early Thursday morning, around seven, I ran across a turtle. It would have escaped my attention as it moved quietly in the bushes near the house but the yellow markings on its shell caught my eye. It’s an Eastern Box Turtle. The shell of this one appears to be about five inches long. I think I've found Elvira because the turtle’s eyes are brown. Elroy would likely have orange or red eyes. There are other characteristics you can use to determine whether the turtle qualifies for the Ladies Room or not but they seemed indeterminate to me. For instance, the plastron, or underside of the male turtle is supposed to be somewhat concave while the female’s is flat. I thought Elvira’s plastron a bit indented but it’s not obvious. Also the female’s shell is more domed than the male. This turtle’s shell just didn't look as domed as the female pictured on line. Only the eye color appeared clear cut to me. It’s not a one hundred percent indicator but, since I have no experience sexing turtles, I went with it and gave Elvira the key to the Powder Room. One more thing – I think her tail should have been broader and flatter if she were a boy.
Elvira now lives in a wilder habitat, away from homes and roads. There are just too many cars and lawnmowers around here to give her much chance of surviving long. In the wild she can live a hundred years. Did you get a look at her legs? They’re stumpy and they stick out her sides. If you want nimble cornering and speed this just isn't the way to go. Try placing a long stick between your knees. Now time yourself running the fifty yard dash. Send me a post card when you get there. Of course, if you’re a turtle eating plants and crawling insects you’re not in any rush. Things can get pretty exciting, though, if a fox with a taste for turtle takes an interest in you. Your shell is your suit of armor. Make as small as you can and tuck yourself inside. Make sure nothing soft sticks out. The fox will probably paw at you and sniff about. Pray he can’t roll you over on your back. This could go on quite a while if the fox has nothing better to do. He may not even be all that hungry. You’re just an interesting diversion on an otherwise sleepy afternoon. Oh, great. He’s trying to gnaw on you. So long as this continues you won’t be able to properly digest your breakfast. All this stress is giving you indigestion. Now would be the perfect time to give off a powerful stench of heroic scale. You’d think you’d have been issued such a weapon for defense in situations like this. What an oversight.
If I’m the turtle I feel blessed because I’m too dull-witted to fully appreciate the predicament I’m in. I’m not imagining all the terrible things that might happen to me. I’m not crying out, “Why me, Lord?” I’m just alone with myself, cooped up tight inside my own shell, pondering very slowly the efforts of the big bad wolf futilely blowing on my house of bricks. I’m trying to sort things out. Am I afraid or am I just annoyed? It’s hard to say. I can’t seem to hold onto any single train of thought long enough to decide how I feel. It’s like trying to focus on the music in a supermarket. It so easily slips out of consciousness.
The commotion outside has stopped. When did this happen? I must have been thinking about crickets. I like the ones missing a leg best. A plump leaf moist with dew sounds tasty right now. Is it berry season, yet? It feels stuffy. Isn’t there something I’m supposed to be thinking about? I’m all sealed up tight inside because… because… oh. Yeah. I should slowly take a peek around.
After living one hundred years one half inch off the ground what conclusions are there for a turtle to make? It feels good lying in shallow puddles following breakfast. Plants are easier to catch than insects. Elroy bumping into Elvira is a truly rare chance meeting.