My drive to work this morning took me along Riggs Road, a shortcut to the gas station on Highway 62 north of Madoc where I was hoping (fruitlessly) that the price might have dipped below $1.30 a litre. (Stupid Iraq unrest.) Along that gravel road I came face to face with yet another of the local turtles who have been making their way across the roadways in great numbers (because apparently the other side of the road is a much better place to lay your eggs).
Regular readers will know how Raymond has kind of taken the cause of the turtles to heart. (Readers who are not regulars can read about it here and here.) He has become very watchful for turtles on the roads, and very good at moving them across to the other side to save them from vehicles that might injure or kill them inadvertently or (this I don’t even like to think about) deliberately.
But while Raymond has saved many a turtle (seven at last count for this spring alone), until today I had not had a chance to put my turtle-moving gloves to use. This morning, I got that chance with the turtle on Riggs Road.
I stopped the car. I considered the situation. People, this was a big turtle. And it was fearless, apparently: for a long time it watched me watching it, and it didn’t for a second make a move to hide its head in its shell. And did I mention that it was big? I had visions of its fearless head stretching out on its long stretchy neck and snapping viciously at me as I made my first-ever attempt to help a turtle across the road. Of me doing something stupid like dropping it in fear, or because I’d been bitten. Of making things worse instead of better.
And then I did the sensible thing. I called Raymond.
Who would have been very happy to dash off to Riggs Road and move that turtle – but couldn’t, because the wasp-spraying guy (that’s a whole other saga; some instalments here and here) was to come at some point today, and he had to stay at the Manse until that happened. But he made me feel better by pointing out that Riggs Road isn’t all that busy, and that surely the turtle would get to the other side all right.
But it didn’t.
I took the same route home from work this evening. There, on the side of Riggs Road, was what had to be my turtle – dead. I was practically in tears. It was my fault. I drove on, and then I turned around and drove back. Whether it was to be sure I’d seen correctly (maybe it wasn’t really dead?), or to pay my respects, I’m not sure. But anyway, there the poor turtle was, dead. Flies buzzing around, some mess, some smell. The same beautiful creature who just nine hours earlier had stared me down while I watched from my car, when she looked brave and assured about her crossing-the-road mission. When she filled me with confidence that she’d make it and be okay. When I failed her utterly by chickening out from trying to help when deep down I knew I should, no matter how big and snappy she was.
Poor turtle. Poor, poor turtle.
I felt miserable as I carried on home. But you know what? I got a second chance. Life is good that way.
When I was almost home, just a couple of kilometres west of Queensborough, I came upon another turtle. It was just starting to make its way across the road. It was very small and very scared; it hid its head as soon as I approached on foot, having stopped the car, donned my turtle gloves, and determined to make up for lost turtles.
And I quickly got it across the road, all the while telling it what a good and brave turtle it was:
So yeah, today I saved a turtle. I just wish I had saved two.