“Turtle Highway” On The Ozark Prairie
There’s a rural highway on the Ozark Prairie (in Missouri, just a little northeast of the Lake of the Ozarks) that I will always think of as “Turtle Highway”. I have a love for all animals, but think the common box turtles are really remarkable creatures. And, this one highway seems to often have one or two in just the few miles that it spans. It encompasses only about 10 miles, at best, and winds through lots of farmland mixed with deciduous woods like one will typically find in Missouri.
Anyhow, I do have a story to tell about this “Turtle Highway” , one that will stick with me for a long time. It’s a true story, although it may sound like a tall tale, lol! : )
I was traveling on “Turtle Highway” this spring, about a month ago, and came upon a turtle in the highway. But, lo and behold, there was a pretty large moving van size truck approaching from the opposite direction. Of course, I wanted to miss that little guy (or gal) and knew that it would be very tricky to do with that large truck coming. As luck would have it, I didn’t crunch the little bugger! Instead, my car tire must have grazed it’s hard shell “just right” that it SHOT it across the highway. Anyhow, I realized that that had happened and also knew that little box turtle might be laying at the side of the road – UPSIDE DOWN.
So, I decided that the most humane thing I could do was to turn around and go back the very short distance to check him (or her) out. I mean, there could be a turtle family waiting somewhere, even? And, how would it be to be left upside down only to be eventually smashed, for sure?
Just as I had thought, that turtle WAS on it’s back at the side of the road. legs and head tucked inside its protective shell and no way to see if it was dead or alive. I placed it a good distance along the shoulder, far from the road, and left – feeling that I had done all that I could to help the little turtle.
I went home and didn’t think much more about it…
…until the next morning when I traveled down “Turtle Highway” on my way to the city. When I rounded the bend in the road where I had the turtle encounter – what did I see? Can you guess? A turtle in the road, walking like turtles often do …a happy walk, sort of jaunting about,…perhaps, just happy to be alive? It was so bizarre – was that the SAME turtle? It was almost like it was there to say, “I’m doing just fine, thank you”. Okay, so this is believable, right? It’s a true story and not over, yet…
…that night I was returning from the city, going down the same stretch of road on “Turtle Highway” and can you guess what I saw? Would you believe it? This is true – I saw a TURTLE in the SAME PLACE. walking about in the road. That turtle…I mean, could it be the SAME TURTLE?…that turtle just looked happy to be alive, so happy for spring and walking about on the warm pavement like we’ve all seen before. But, was it a little bit more exhilarant? I guess I will never know the answer to that question, only to remember how strange it was.
So, the ending of the story?… I imagine it’s a happy ending since I haven’t seen a smashed turtle anywhere on “Turtle Highway”. And, I really do think that turtle may have been the “one and the same turtle” each time!? – very happy for a second chance at life.
Photo Credit: David DeHetre
AFTERTHOUGHT: To any out there that may read this, it is important to remember that SAFETY is #1. Never swerve to miss a turtle and endanger your life or another human life. This turtle was not in the roadway when I turned it over. I would also like to add that I often run alongside a rural highway with my dog and exercise many safety precautions, even though I may never even see a single car the whole time out there. BE SAFE WHEN BICYCLING OR RUNNING/WALKING ALONGSIDE ANY ROADWAY!!