Don't touch it! DON'T TOUCH IT!

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

Jan, the 4 year old and I were in the car - approaching the stop sign at the end of our road - when a dark roundish object in the middle of the pavement caught our attention.
We're a gang. We solve mysteries. What?

Me: I think it’s a baseball glove.

Also me: Or, half a watermelon.

Me again: Maybe it’s a giant cow patty.

Jan: We don’t have cows on our road.

She was right, of course. We may have three hundred and fourteen chickens living amongst us in our little rural neighbourhood (yes, I’ve counted them). But cows? Not so much.


The 4 year old: There’s a cow?! On our road?! Where’s the cow?! Stop!!!! I want to seeeeeeeee it!

Since it was garbage day, it seemed reasonable that a chunk of something or other had fallen out of the truck that dutifully hauls away whatever the raccoons, coyotes and feral cats haven’t claimed.

It wasn’t until we came to a full stop at the end of the lane, that we realized what was lying in the center of the intersection.

Me: I think it’s a turtle.

Jan: I think you’re right.

The 4 year old: It’s a turtle! I can’t believe it’s a turtle! Can we take it home?

We pulled off onto the gravel and turned on the hazard lights. You know, to investigate.

"Is it dead... I mean, sleeping?" I corrected myself as soon as I remembered I had a 4 year old daughter squeezing her fingernails into my hand. 

The three of us tiptoed up to the prehistoric looking creature. Slowly. There had never been a time when we were more like the gang from Scooby-Doo - minus a few key characters.

I was Velma Dinkely. Obviously.

The turtle's eyes were closed and it didn’t appear to be moving. One leg was contorted, the others hidden beneath its shell.

The prognosis appeared grim. And so, I did the only thing I could do. I stood on the road; blocked oncoming traffic, looked worried and shouted, "Don’t touch it! DON'T TOUCH IT!"

Jan, on the other hand was a little more proactive. Grabbing a leaf-covered branch, she proceeded to tickle the turtle. Because, why wouldn’t she?

The turtle opened its eyes and performed a half-assed snap at the irritating clump of leaves dangling in its face.

I was reminded of a story Geoff once shared about when, as a child, he poked at a snapping turtle with a stick. The creature had lunged at him, mouth open, biting his front bike tire in the process. The tire popped and Geoff ran home… his damaged bike hoisted over his shoulder.

Again, I offered some supportive advice, “Don’t touch it! DON’T TOUCH IT!”

Then, I called Geoff, who happened to be working at a local conservation organization. He asked around and came back with this helpful information from the scientists: “It’s probably a female looking for a place to lay her eggs. Don’t move it, unless it’s injured, in which case, bring it here." 

"Bring her there?" I asked, "We can't get close to her! She's enormous! She's angry. Jan's tickling her right now. Can you come and do it?"

That last sentence is why Geoff leaves his phone in the truck more often than not.

He agreed to drive over and that's when IT happened.

A local lumber delivery truck came barreling down the road, headed right for the possibly injured, unquestionably irritated snapping turtle.

I immediately channeled my inner Tiananmen Square “Tank Man” and stood tall on the middle of the road with my enemy - the Kent truck - in my sights.

My grip on reality is a little like a clumsy toddler holding a soap-covered cat.

“Sooo. Whatcha doin?” drawled the driver as he slowed to a stop beside me.

“It’s a turtle.” I gasped. “She’s pregnant. Or sleeping. We’re not sure.”

“Uh huh."

Keep in mind, the delivery man was no stranger to my antics, having dropped off numerous building supplies to our home while we were under construction - often while I was in my pyjamas, climbing on dirt piles with my daughter, convinced I had just spotted yet another ostrich in the woods.

Just then, our neighbor, Jay, came around the corner in his truck.

“I’ll just pick her up and move her off the road.” He said, in a matter-of-fact way. Jay keeps chickens. Jay must be fearless.

While Jan chatted with the truck driver about our delivery, I crouched down at the tail end of the critter - a good distance away, with my daughter beside me - and settled in to a good cringe.

I was hoping Jay wouldn't get hurt - or worse - that he wouldn't wound the beast.

“Hey there little fella” he whispered, and with that, the turtle lifted her head, glared at Jay and his incoming arms, stood up, twisted around and came running… straight at me.

Now, you may think that turtles don't run and if you do think that turtles don't run, you would be wrong. They do.

The four year old and I got the hell out of the way and let that little bugger whoosh her way past our car and into the ditch. I called Geoff - who was now on his way - to let him know the ordeal was over.

"I hope you had your camera," he said, turning the truck around.

Um, yeah. I did. Unfortunately, I was too busy chasing after my imagination to take pictures. Except for this one.

No, really.

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