Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Turtle and a Dolly

You might be looking at this photo thinking "A turtle and a dolly...what the &#%*??? Welcome to my Sunday morning.

A brief summation to get you up to speed: Epic storms all night in Austin. 11+ inches of rainfall. Waterfront living. Approximately 4 ft rise in water level. One lost turtle. Three determined strangers. Oh, and one dolly.

So this morning I spotted a turtle crossing the road. Well, not quite a main road, but very close and still a very busy driveway into the apartment complex next door. I pass him by (for simplicity's sake, I'll assume its a "he"), trying to convince myself that he'd find his way back to the water. Which in my estimation, is about 50 yards in the opposite direction. You know, let nature take its course and all that.

After about 5 minutes of shuffling around in my house, my curiosity got the best of me. I kept picturing that terrified looking turtle encountering a car driven by someone preoccupied with an incoming text message. I couldn't live with that on my conscience. Mission accepted, Mother Nature.

I grab my umbrella, walk next door and discover a couple afflicted with a similar case of curiosity. The dude (we introduced ourselves, but I'm terrible with names) was about to pick the turtle up. This seemed like a simple solution to our problem, however, we quickly discovered that: a) the turtle was quite a hefty creature and b) the turtle was actually an alligator snapping turtle who was very scared and very pissed to be so far from home. Crap.

After several minutes of trying to herd the turtle back to the water with our umbrellas - and seeing a snapping turtle actually snap - we determined that the poor thing would probably die of a heart attack before we escorted him even 5 feet. Nope, this wouldn't work...we needed something to carry him with. Like a dolly. The dude decides to check if the 7-11 across the street has one.

Now take just a second here to imagine yourself walking into 7-11 and asking the cashier if you can take their dolly so you can wheel a lost turtle back to its home. Yeah, that actually happened. And shockingly, he succeeded. He comes back, dolly in tow, the turtle hops back on, hitches a ride and wishes us well as he saunters back into his liquid world.

Not so much. It turns out that getting a large, angry snapping turtle on the small metal shelf of a dolly is no easy feat. We had him on for a second but when we tilted to push, the turtle would slide and get a limb caught, or he'd snap at us and get his head stuck under one of the bars. So pushing was out of the picture. This wasn't going to be so easy.

At this point we're all soaked, the couple starts losing steam and I sense that they are about to call it a day. I quickly suggest that if we can get the turtle fully on the dolly shelf, we could each take a side and carry it down to the water. And by some miracle, the turtle cooperated while we did exactly that. Staying far enough away that it couldn't snap its head and have a chunk of leg for breakfast, we carried the turtle and the dolly approximately 50 yards back down to the flooded riverbank.

There were a few more obstacles in its path and I did have to pull a post or two out of the ground (shhhh!) for it to swim around, but the turtle made it back home. We watched as he took a little breather before swimming away. I'd like to say it was a way of him tipping his hat before riding off into the sunset, but I'm retty sure our helping hands would still wind up with missing fingers if we got too close.

The dolly got returned (with more strange looks), I said goodbye to my fellow turtle whisperers and walked home in soggy shoes practicing my turtle call just in case I ever need it again. 

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