It all started when she took the kids over to Green Acres Park to play and feed the ducks, there were a group of kids torturing the corpse of a turtle they had already killed and man o man did ever get a lesson from my wife who confiscated another which was still very much alive. This turtle was the beginning of her quest, next day the lady who lived across the street came over to see what we were doing with a box and tub of water in the front yard, to get right to the point she saw Cindy taking care of this turtle and mentioned she had one in her back yard she needed to be rid of, I went over and underneath her shed I dug out a small box turtle that was in the worst shape I have ever seen, his shell was actually broken it appeared he had been hit by the lawnmower and he was so dehydrated his eyes were sunk into his head, he actually smelled of death.
We did some research and to cure the dehydration he was placed into a tub of water just deep enough to reach the lower half of his shell but not deep enough for him to drown, we left him like this and turned in for the night expecting the worse for him come morning, much to our surprise next morning when we got up there he was scrapping around the box with the most bright eyes I have ever seen, the small turtle with the broken shell was called “Toughie”
picture from Google ImagesWe were now in the turtle business (have you noticed that we get into a lot of different animal businesses than I choose) and to be proper turtle keepers these turtles had to have a proper home so here I am out in the back yard with “Shovels and Rakes and Implements of Destruction” building a large frame that was completely covered with chicken wire, a lid was added for easy access at feeding time and then the bottom two and a half feet of this cage was buried so the turtles could dig down to sleep and hibernate when the time came without being able to escape, now this sounds easy but that is a lot of dirt to dig out only to be placed right back into the same hole after the cage was in place.
Toughie was quite a character he was the smallest of nearly twenty turtles we ended up with over the years and he always held his own, every once in a while I would give them a treat and bring home a tub of night crawlers or maybe some red worms for them to eat, Toughie would come over to where the lid was and look up standing on three legs with one a front leg held up, Cindy said he was “Sitting Pretty” for the worms and he did this every time I brought worms home for them.
The turtles would dig down and disappear every winter to hibernate so when this happened and they were not coming up during the day anymore I would dump all of the leaves I had raked from the yard and cover them, this held moisture in the ground which they needed and also added a blanket to keep the frost level from getting down to them, around February every year they would begin to appear for the season and the antics of saving the turtles was again upon us.
These turtles came from everywhere, if we saw one on the highway I would have to make a u-turn and go back to prevent it from being run over, I even had to spend my entire lunch hour one day taking apart the dash in my company truck to save one I had the bright idea of stopping for and placed in the floorboard thinking he would be OK till I got home, Yes when I got home he was gone and there were scratching noises coming from back behind the radio, I could actually see his face looking back at me from the defrost vent, after this if one needed saved while I was working there was a box in my toolbox where they were a little safer.
We did this I know for about five to six years and when we got the call that we were needed in California we had to agonize over what to do with our turtles, all the people we knew that had turtles were at their limit and the Zoo refused them for the same reason, we found a pond out in the country that sat on the edge of a nice park and over the hill behind this pond is a beautiful area with green grass and not much foot traffic, twenty turtles went to live here because of the moisture available and all the bugs and worms you could eat, Toughie was still very much alive and could fend for himself when we chose to release him back to nature, last time I saw him he was scrapping his was towards the grass, he stopped turning back and for a minute I saw that front leg coming up and for a minute I thought he was coming back, but instead he began to scratch the ground for he had already found a worm he didn’t have to sit pretty for.