Turtles All the Way Down

Today was that kind of day that started great then ended with a thud.

Little Nellie and I have been getting along splendidly ever since I put H-bars on the bike. My hat’s off to the crew at Bikes at Vienna for transforming this bike that had become, quite literally, a pain into a bike that feels like a magic carpet. It’s quite a lot of fun to ride and the wide handlebars that I selected do an unexpectedly good job of absorbing road shock.

I knew today would be the first mow of the season so I wanted to get in at least an easy ride beforehand. (You gotta have your priorities straight, you know.) Parts of the lawn have barely begun to grow while others have deep, thick grass. I expected the latter to be rough going.

After riding Little Nellie 35 miles yesterday north to the DC cherry blossoms, I decided to ride south to the neighborhoods of Hybla Valley and Woodlawn. As I walked into my backyard to fetch my bike I came upon a visitor, a box turtle. He was stopped in one of those spots in the lawn with barely any spring growth. The turtle didn’t shy away as I took its portrait. Box turtles can live anywhere between 50 and 100 years so there’s no telling if the turtle was visiting my house or I was visiting his. Since my neighborhood was developed about 60 years ago it is entirely possible that this little critter has been around longer than my house.

Backyard buddy
Just passin’ through.

Last summer I did an odd maneuver on a two-lane highway in Kansas to save a box turtle from getting run over. I crossed over to the left lane to force an on-coming driver to drive around me and miss the turtle in the process. It worked, but a few minutes later the underage driver’s parents came after me and went all kinds of crazy with road rage. It was an incident that was truly alarming, especially in light of the fact that Kansans are generally the most chill drivers in the country. The scary encounter was well worth it though, because the box turtle was spared a grim fate.

I was slightly underdressed for today’s breezy 50s but that didn’t subtract much from the joy of spinning along the flat roads of Hybla Valley. I crisscrossed the suburban landscape, traffic-free because the entire western boundary of the neighborhood is a nature preserve. I saw a half dozen retirees mowing their grass, giving me a good case of the guilts.

The Woodlawn area located between Fort Belvoir and Mount Vernon is another low traffic place that features a few gentle hills that keep things interesting. There’s also a backyard bald eagle nest that I like to check out. Nobody was home in the nest so I’ll have to go back another day.

I arrived home a bit chilled after 31 miles. I put Little Nellie back in its storage spot and looked around the backyard for my little friend. The turtle was nowhere to be found. I suspected in the three hours since I encountered the little guy, he had made his getaway onto the farm next store. Over the years I have seen a turtle – perhaps even the same one – wedged along the bottom of the fences around our yard. I assumed he had headed to the farm because beyond the farm fence, there are all kinds of places that a turtle can hide, safe from the neighborhood predators (foxes, raccoons, dogs, raptors).

A big bowl of hot soup and some indoor time allowed me to warm up a bit before heading back out to mow the lawn. After about 30 more minutes of prep, I was underway in the backyard. All was going well until I hit the tall dense grass in the back left corner of the yard by the fence along the edge of the farm.

The grass was really thick and I was laboring to push the mower through it when I felt and heard a thud from under the mower. I pulled the mower back expecting to see a ball or some other obstacle but instead I saw the turtle. It had been hunkering down in the tall grass only a few feet from the fence. It had made it about 150 feet across the yard since I saw it in the morning.

The poor thing never stood a chance. Its end was brutal and quick. Looking at its remains almost made me throw up. How could I be so stupid. Ugh.

I gave my friend a proper burial in the garden then went about the rest of my business.

What a horrid end to a beautiful day.

6 thoughts on “Turtles All the Way Down

  1. Oh that’s awful that the turtle died! 😦 😦 Poor thing…. 😦 Maybe next time if you come across a turtle when you’re walking in your yard, you can relocate him… before a bad incident happens.

  2. 😱😱😱 my mouth dropped reading this. I felt momentarily sick myself, this is so sad. Obviously you didn’t mean for this to happen, and it’s by no means your fault, but I would be devastated if I had done this. UGH is right.

    RIP to the turtle friend.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s