He was in the middle of the road and he might have been run over by a car had I not stopped.
In my last post, Hay Bales and Cowboy Boots, I mentioned that there is a muddy creek bed at the end of our street. We met a family there with a long stick hunting for turtles in the mud. A regular evening family activity in rural Oklahoma.
I was driving from our house yesterday when I noticed a small turtle on the side of the road. Instinctually, I stopped. Picked him up. And walked him back down to the creek.
I say isntinctually, because it is a ritual I am very familiar with and one I witnessed my father do over and over again.
As a child growing up in central Florida, we came across many turtles in the road. Most of them with crushed shells beyond hope. But, there were times when my dad would spot one meandering across a lonesome highway. He would stop the car, pick up the turtle and…no, he wouldn’t walk him back to the creek. Often the dense pine forest on the roadway prevented us from seeing a body of water. Instead, my dad would place this sweet, little creature on the floorboards in the back seat. Yes…right by my 5-year-old feet.
Hence the memory being well etched in my mind. By my estimation, these sweet turtles were savages waiting for me to forget they were down there and ready to bite my toes off one at a time should I put my feet down. I would gather my legs and feet underneath me in the seat and keep my eyes on the little guy, holding my breath and close to panic until my dad would finally stop, pick him up and place him by a body of water somewhere.
Then, I would relax and breathe a sigh of relief until the next time my dad decided to be a turtle hero once again.
While the site of a turtle on the side of the road as a child would send me into a panic, certain that this time I would end up with one less toe, I do cherish the memories.
I can see my handsome, brave, and strong dad confidently exiting the car determined to save the day once again. I would watch with some fear and trepidation that maybe this time instead of my toe, my dad’s fingers were to be in jeoperdy.
But, I am here to tell the tale and say that we both still have all ten toes and fingers.
However for years later, I was fearful of putting my feet down in the back seats of cars certain that there was a turtle lurking. I have told my father over the years of this continued awareness of a childhood fear. I laugh now at the thought of it.
Yesterday, when I saw the turtle, without hesitation, I stopped my car in the middle of the road, put on my flashers and confidently walked over. With the skills taught to me by my dad, I carefully picked him up and walked him down to the stream bed.
I saved his life…maybe. A smile crept across my face remembering the bravery and strength I saw in my father during those times. My love and admiration of him grew stronger in that moment.
How can such a simple act bring such joy?
What is it about memories that stir so deeply in the soul – a catalyst for all-consuming comfort and peace?
This one act, rescuing a turtle from the road, so simple, so minor when compared to all that is going on in this world. Yet somehow, I sensed a deep connection to something greater and beyond me. I can’t explain it. This is a mystery.
Returning to my car, the memories of my dad flooded my mind and the smile stayed for some time. Joy bubbled over into my soul and throughout my body.
I am so thankful for those childhood memories, despite my childish fears.
Maybe saving a turtle’s life will be a lesson I will pass on to my boys one day.
And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. And God made the beasts of the earth according to their kinds and the livestock according to their kinds, and everything that creeps on the ground according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.
Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.
And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” And God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.” And it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. (Genesis 1:24-31)