I was headed back to the hotel from work yesterday. Planning to make a posting about stock markets. The week of going to parks and spending time with the spouse having ended with a drive to the airport at 5 am…
We’d been in the “Polynesian” hotel at Walt Disney World. A nice hotel (more on that in some other posting, perhaps) but with a bit of a dated aspect to it’s technology. Yes, it was built many years ago (near the start of the park about 40 ish years back), but it has been well maintained and one would have expected some more ‘tech’ upgrades over that time. There WAS internet in the room. It came from the wall socket and they supplied a cable in a nice little bag in the closet (with a note that you would be charged $10 if the cable went walkies at checkout time…). The “High Speed Internet” charge was $10 / 24 hours. Great 1980’s level of service and charge profile. Not so much in touch with 2011 when even the grocery store (Whole Foods) has free internet hotspots and the crappiest hotels on Hwy 192 (the $27 / night cheap seats) advertize their ‘free wireless internet’… At any rate, between being kept busy by the spouse and work, and the idea of $10 for the half hour I’d have per day to actually use the internet connection, I’d had a dozen ideas for postings, but not been able to get one done. So I really wanted to put at least one up. But plans change.
As I was headed back to the “cheap hotel”, there is a semi-remote back road between the Parkway and highway 192. As I made the turn, there was what looked a bit like a very fat tropical leaf on the right lane (as I took the left). I thought for a minute. Was that a chunk of plant, or perhaps a turtle? The 5 pm high traffic time was not a good time for either to be in the road. I did a U-turn and went back. By the time I got back, it was in the left lane near the center divide. I pulled up to a halt and opened the drivers door. It was a turtle. Gently lifting one side, I saw some blood on the pavement…
The fellow was about a foot across. The blood was near the neck end of the shell. The belly was scraped, but not too bad. It basically looked like he’d just been run over and was stunned. As some cars were stopping behind me, I picked him up. Significant blood started to come from his nose, so I opened my window and did the juggling act of getting him outside, me inside, and the car moving. As I moved along, more blood came from his long nose.
The particular kind of turtle is an Apalone Ferox, I think. An aquatic soft shell type. Why would he be on land on a road?
I figured he was most likely going to die, internal bleeding and probably something like internal organ damage and / or burst lungs.
There was a wide spot ahead with a bit of turn out, so I stopped there. Carried him (or perhaps her) up a mowed edge slope, and placed the poor dear in a nice semi-shaded spot away from cars and hazards. If death was to be fate, at least it could be in quiet and comfortable surroundings; not desperately wishing to be out of an alien asphalt desert with crushing monsters whizzing past at astounding speed. Even a turtle deserves a bit of time to contemplate their life, as it ebbs, and that is best done under trees in the dappled shade. As comfortable as one can be.
The bleeding was also abating a bit. (Perhaps just due to the lack of panic causing lower blood pressure and slower breathing; perhaps due to the body position with the wound probable location at the top and the intact body portions at lower elevation.) I had a bit of eye contact with a soul that was in dire straights, but seemed to appreciate that “things were less dire” than before.
I drove back to the hotel and cleaned the bits of blood spatter off the side of my car where the wind had blown the bits from his nose and mouth. No need to leave it there and end up explaining to The Nice Police Officer that a quick DNA test would show it to be turtle blood and not human…
But the bottom line was that I was not thinking about markets. Not really fit to make a decent posting. I was thinking about life, and death, and how fragile life can be. One moment at the peak of it, sprinting from one pond to another, showing off, perhaps. The next, on the way to road kill. One moment graduating college, the next wondering about that odd rash or strange aches and pains and thinking the worst. Talking to friends about stents and aspirin. Wondering about the various times I’d had a ‘crossing the road’ moment.
Are we not all, at one time or another, just turtles of our own sort crossing some alien road of our own? Why do we take boats to sea, spaceships to space, or just decide to spade the garden ‘stent or no stent’…
The Adventure Gene
Perhaps the old pond had run low on food. Or perhaps a new alligator had moved in. Perhaps the other turtles were just no fun anymore… Who knows what causes the turtle to cross the road. New food, new ponds to explore, looking for a better mate, or leaving the family pond to go on an adventure and explore… IMHO, the size and coloration of this turtle put it at the ‘late adolecent’ stage. Not as big as possible, but past the ‘baby’ stage. Old enough to have lived a decent life, but not yet “old”. Perhaps like a ’20 something’ human.
Some time back I’d heard of a study of adventurism in food tastes and genetics. Someone had done a study of folks. We divide into those who are “picky eaters” and those who are “adventurous eaters”. I’m in that second group. If someone else eats something, well heck, I’m willing to give it a try. Might be interesting! The spouse likes to eat familiar things all the time and it takes some work to get her to try new things. Turns out, this is a genetic trait.
So WHY are there TWO antithetical genetic traits?
Turns out that it’s because the population needs some of each in it.
During times of famine, the adventurous eaters will have some who survive as they eat just about anything and find what has food value. BUT, during times of plenty, they are more likely to discover the ‘wrong mushrooms’ and the ‘moldy grains’ that cause illness and death. At those times, the ‘picky eater’ will cruise along happy and healthy. For the population to survive both scenarios, it needs some of each in it. Yes, the percentage of each will oscillate back and forth as the two forces shift (so right now civilization is pushing toward more ‘survival of the unadventuresome’ in the wealthy well fed countries…) but there is always a drift toward a balance point.
So I would speculate that something similar may be at play in the turtle population. Some of them simply wonder why any sane turtle would leave the old family pond; while others go looking for what the pond on the other side of the road is like. Some die when a new development drains the old pond (or larger gators move in…) while others die crossing the road at the wrong time. But on average SOME of the turtles that cross the roads find new lands and new mates with new advantages; and some of the ones that stay home make a new generation to keep the pond stocked (and provide a few new adventurous ones who look at that road with a sense of wonder…)
In the end, the turtle crosses the road from a sense of curiosity and adventure, desperation or desire, being hungry and needing a more promising place to make a living, or just being lost and disoriented. The same kinds of things that drive people to move from one side of the country to the other, enlist in the Army, go away to college, or get a new job on the other side of the country. In the end, for the same reasons we do things. And each of us will have some tolerance for those risks, and some degree of embrace for them. Each of us will have our “crossing the road moment”. And some of us will be ‘road kill’ in the process, while others will found a whole new civilization in that new pond…
We are all, like it or not, kith and kin with that turtle.
Today, I could not stand it any more. On the way back from work I decided to stop and see. Had I provided a ‘comfortable death’ or a respite to recover? Internal bleeding is not a very survivable thing, but reptiles are very sturdy (turles very much so) and can survive a much lower level of oxygenation than mammals. Perhaps there was a bit of hope…
I stopped, expecting to find “turtle bits” as various scavengers started to do the clean up that nature does.
I found nothing.
There were a couple of dried blood spots on the road, confirming that I’d stopped in the same place. I found the same trees (and checked those 10 meters each side, just to be sure). There was no turtle.
This turtle was large enough that it would take a decent sized predator to carry it away. The placement, near a road, would discourage such. Yes, it is possible that something came along and ‘cleaned up’. But I choose to believe the alternative. I’ve not seen much in the way of ‘large predators’ between the two highways here.
I choose to believe that once positioned with the ‘injury elevated’ and with some pressure on the wound (and perhaps as blood pressure dropped…) the blood clotted. That the reptilian ability to slow metabolism let it rest and recover without a lot of breathing and / or high heart rate. And that the clotting and healing was enough to let the turtle do a slow waddle back to the area of the ponds. I choose to believe that the adventuresome turtle has learned to be wary of roads and is having a bit of a think about it while clots turn to scars and healing.
And maybe, just maybe, he’s feeling a bit thankful for that strange beast that took him from the ‘kill zone’ and placed him in a safe and shaded area where he could recover. Who gave him a peaceful place to let blood pressure drop and tensions fade. To catch his breath and ‘just be’ for a while.
Maybe we all need that from time to time. When we have our own “cross the road” moments. Friends and home where we can care for our wounds and recover. Time and space to “just be”. And heal.
As for me, I’m thinking maybe I’ll spend just a bit more time contemplating family, friends, and just which adventures will give the most gain for the more reasonable risks. Which errors can more likely be avoided, and when the inevitable ‘very bad day’ comes, wondering if I’ll have a ‘strange beast’ to contemplate…