Turtle Crossing

In late spring of 2001, while I was driving my usual route home, I saw a turtle trying to cross the highway. I thought about stopping to help, but I didn’t really feel like making that effort. A few hours later, when I drove back in the other direction, I saw the remains of the turtle who had not made it across. It broke my heart, and I felt terrible for ignoring my impulse to help the poor thing.

A week or two after that, I saw another turtle crossing the highway on my way to the community college. This time, I pulled over and carried the turtle the rest of the way across. Feeling extremely satisfied, I decided to start leaving extra time for my morning drive to school, in case any other turtles needed saving. There was a lot of turtle traffic on that highway, so small rescue operations became a regular thing for me.

There wasn’t a ton of automobile traffic on that road, so I never had to wait long to cross safely. I liked it when people drove by while I was working. I know I was a sight to see. Back then, I wore black clothes and black makeup and assorted chains and spiked things. If camera phones and social media had existed, I could have become internet famous: “Goth teen consoles turtle while directing traffic.”

Most of my clients were painted turtles or red eared sliders. I would walk up to one, they’d impersonate a rock, and I’d move the one-pound “rock” to a safe location. One day, though, I saw a turtle in trouble that was at least ten times bigger than any of the others I’d helped, and this one had more threatening features. When I got closer, the turtle stretched out their neck toward me, opened their mouth, and let out a frantic but exhausted sounding hiss. I knew this wouldn’t be a simple “move the rock” rescue, so I launched into a motivational speech. I didn’t know what else to do with a snapping turtle.

I remember standing in the middle of the road, gesturing emphatically while attempting to verbally persuade my shelled friend to finish crossing while it was safe. Whenever a vehicle drove by, the turtle would hiss at it threatenly. Unlike the other turtles, the snapper stopped crossing and took on a defensive response. Most of the turtles crossed slowly but surely. I wondered how long this one had been standing in the middle of the road, trying to intimidate the vehicles rather than walk away from them.

I went to my car and frantically dug for something that could help. My combination snow brush and ice scraper was the longest thing I had, so I decided to go with that. I figured I could nudge the frightened critter toward the ditch without risking the loss of any of my digits. So I went behind the turtle and gave them an encouraging little poke. Instead of moving forward though, the turtle turned around and hissed at me.

I figured I might have more luck getting the turtle to come after me than trying to push them in front of me. I waved my ice scraper in their face. Instead of walking toward me, the turtle shot their neck out and bit down on the plastic end of my tool. This impressively aggressive gesture made me extra glad I had kept my hands at a safe distance. I pulled my ice scraper and dragged the turtle about a yard before they let go. After a few more pokes, the turtle was chasing me through the ditch. The internet would have loved that video too.

Rural Poop

I get tired of the poop in my everyday city life. Our most used bathroom (with litter box) is a half bath just off the kitchen. If the door was closed, you might think it was a pantry. Cleaning the litter boxes is never an exciting chore. And Matilda has been smearing extra rude turds about the house while adjusting to a dietary change. Then there are┬áthe mouse droppings in the kitchen which have been particularly infuriating, though cayenne pepper has really helped with that problem. There’s not that much poop to deal with here, but it’s too much.

Yesterday, I went to Wintervale Ranch, which is about a 50-minute drive from home. That’s Elysa’s parents’ place. At Wintervale, there are four horses, three chickens, a cat, a dog, some wildlife passing through, and a healthy community of several types of trees. I guess there are some nice native grasses there too, but I haven’t gotten very excited about them yet. While walking the trails and checking in on the various critters, I came across a pile of turds that I apparently found interesting enough to snap a photo.

pile of animal droppings in the grass

Someone suggested they might be rabbit poop, but it seemed a little too large for that. My best guess is that it was deer poop. But I think the most important thing for me to take away from that situation was that I found the poop interesting enough to warrant kneeling on the ground, inspecting it, and photographing it. And now I’m writing about it. Examining turds is a good way to learn about who has been dropping by.

Ande scooping horse poop in the paddocks while a white horse (Legacy) supervises

Horse poop is the best though. It doesn’t usually smell bad, and it helps us grow impressive crops. We took home a good load of composted horse manure. As a gesture of appreciation for the compost, I gladly scooped up the small amount of poop that was lying around in the paddock. John gave me a great compost management tutorial while he helped me empty the crap cart. Horses produce an impressive amount of poop, so manure management is a big job, even with a small number of animals.

Learning about how much time is spent working with poop on a farm has brought me back to an experience I had in middle school that finally makes sense to me. I attended an extremely conservative Christian school. During the winter, we got to go ice skating sometimes, in the flooded field on the other side of the parking lot. One time, Mrs. B slipped and fell on her butt, and shouted, “Shit!” We all looked at her with shock and disbelief. She defended herself, saying, “What? I grew up on a farm.” I always thought that was a ridiculous excuse, but it finally makes sense. Rural poop is different from city poop, and when you spend so much time moving poop around, you need more than one word for it.