Why did the turtle cross the road?

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…

Subscribe to feed

About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
This entry was posted in Human Interest and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to Why did the turtle cross the road?

  1. John Andrews says:

    Always interesting.

    — John Andrews in Knoxville

  2. this was a very stimulating post. i guess if we’re all turtles crossing the road, i’ll be the turtle you just picked up and tried to save. I screwed up my life a number of times and had people pick me up and save me from the verge of dying and now here i am again, this time on a different road, hoping to make it to a much better destination. thanks so much for posting!

  3. You’ve assembled a nice mosaic
    Of genetics, adventures and such
    The turtle was more prosaic
    He just likes a spot warm to the touch

    For the softshell, like hard-shelled brother
    Needs to elevate out of the pond
    Warm “rock” one side, the sun on the other
    As he crawls to the space beyond

    In some ways it was useful for it
    To encounter you in that condition
    For when softshells are healthy and fit
    They are known for their mean disposition

    They are biters; their quite long neck
    Mounts a head with a toothless sharp beak
    Which can reach more than you’d expect
    This poor critter was off of his peak

    But he did something quite profound
    As he sharpened the bite in your mind
    Your reaction’s intriguing, and sound
    And your post was quite pleasant to find!

    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

  4. Jeff Alberts says:

    I used to make my dad stop every time I saw a turtle crossing the road in the Shenandoah Valley in Northern VA when I was a kid.

    Once, the turtle I found (these were always simple box turtles) had been run over previously. His shell was shattered into maybe 20 pieces, but had healed back. He seemed perfectly healthy. Big turtle too. This was back in the late 60s, so there weren’t too many lightweight cars, except for the VWs we always drove.

  5. Matthew W says:

    Two summers ago 10 of us stayed at Bay Lake Towers. With room and park passes for 8 days the Disney bill was about $12,000. NO FREAKIN’ INTERNET !!!

    McDonald’s, Motel 6, Starbucks all have free internet !!!!

    We had a very nice sushi dinner at which ever restaurant it is there at the Polynesian and if we go back, we probably would stay at the Polynesian

    Several years ago I saw three different dogs get hit by cars in front of my house and all survived without medical care. Animals can be surprisingly very tough !!

  6. pyromancer76 says:

    Glad your holiday from posting involved “visit with spouse”. Whatever the genetic differences, the partnership enhances a warm heart and a fine mind. Looking forward to more of your presence on chiefio.com.

  7. Pascvaks says:

    Welcome Back!

    We are different, but we’re also very much alike, people and animals i mean. Any animal with half a brain is no doubt going to be “frightened” during such a rescue as you described Chiefio, frightened of the ‘unknown’, the never before experience(s). Even people. Even people, indeed! Should have said, “especially people” (their imaginations can dream up anything and usually do;-). Put any human in a normal environment and introduce something like the turtle experienced, say getting grazed by a piece of space junk, or a glob of blue ice from a high flying 707 (do they still fly?) that we didn’t even know was way up there. Then, to top it off, an alien picks us up, carries us out the window of his craft, stops on the other side of the world (so to speak), and subjects us to the same bouncing, etc., up the hill and placement in a tranquil setting. A setting that could have all kinds of lions and tigers and bears.

    I make the occasional effort to try and coax birds out of my garrage when they get inside; they can’t seem to get the idea I’m trying to help. Some get so flustered trying to keep away from me that they nearly die of fright. I’m a little more sensitive about this tendency in them now than I used to be. Even though I’m “trying” to help them, I know I’m making them wet their diaper and sometimes worse.

    Animals are funny people. People are funny animals. Sometimes when we try to help, we really don’t. Sometimes when we’re really trying to not help, we are. Sometimes when we are trying to teach someone something they are actually the teacher and we are the student. Sometimes the roles are reversed. Up is down. Down is up. Life really is crazy. The older we get the less we realize we know. The more we realize how little we know, the wizer we get. Whoever created this place had a real sense bass ackwards humor.

  8. Larry Geiger says:

    Florida soft shells tend to stay in the water and not wander so much. The “box” like turtles, not so much. They seem to go everywhere. Soft shells can get very large and some of the large ones are extremely ornery. They will bite. I’m quite sure that this one was glad you rescued him from the road.

  9. R. Shearer says:

    I picked up a small half frozen anole lizzard off the side walk during that cold spell last December in Jacksonville and I brought him home, thinking my son might like him for a pet.

    Well, that lizzard became my pet as my son’s excitement lasted for about a day. I probably spent more than $30 or so on crickets and meal worms for him since. He’d probably grown 30% or so under my care and last week my inlaws agreed to return him to their home near Orlando.

    I wonder if I saved him last winter and whether he is happy now. At l don’t have to buy and sacrifice any more damn crickets.

  10. R. Shearer says:

    Oh, I thought you were going to relate the turtle crossing the road to stock investing, risk vs. reward, etc. Anyway, in my opinion we are at a point of reckoning. Either the markets roll down to test the lows again and possibly break them or they continue higher and break through resistence for a substantial ralley.

    I’m putting on shorts suspecting that the down up cycle trend will continue. If there is a break through resistence I plan to go massively long. Otherwise, when we get close to the lows, I’ll begin to cover and go long for the ride back up. If the lows are broken on volume then I’ll go massively short. I don’t think this is a slow and steady turtle kind of a market now.

  11. Ralph B says:

    While house shopping in FL this past Sept we saw this one large turtle crossing the road and were amazed at how fast that bugger could go. We spent more time watching that turtle than checking out the house. Ended buying a place on a canal and my daughter is looking out for those fast turtles. We are also blessed with a bunch of Florida Scrub Jays in our back yard.
    In my family I am the turtle who crosses the road. My siblings are all a short drive from where we grew up and wouldn’t ever think of moving. They are a touch angry with me for moving a thousand miles away.

  12. H.R. says:

    Well it’s nice to hear from you E.M. (you ol'” turtle in a new pond”).

    I just assume ya’ll will be distracted, disrupted and ospending and of course, busy with gainful employment, so I haven’t been too concerned about the turtle-speed of new posts ;o)

    Since it will be a while ’til you settle in, would you mind putting up an open thread for your regulars to throw out random thoughts and observations of the day and chat a bit about them? I have enormous regard for the regular commenters here and enjoy their thoughts.(I think Tips should still be for links to events or other topics that could stand alone as posts. T2 still seems to be getting appropriate posts there and by and large, we are discerning enough to know where to put a tip and where to throw out an interesting observation.) For example, I’d like to hear what some here think of the “Occupy Whatever” stuff going on.

    @Keith – Nice, very nice. I stop by your blog now and then for more of the same.

    Yourself and family first, E.M.

  13. adolfogiurfa says:

    @E.M.: Really poetic 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…
    What does life is? but a trick, nature has, against entropy….or perhaps the way God has to overcome mortality and being inmortal….Who knows!
    Perhaps if we are the same as the Universe and nature itself, using this trick. Then we could conceive male and female universes, yang and ying, struggling for survival….”As above so below”, a fleeting existence of a “quanta” emitted from an unknown womb, a “warp”, a “wave” about to die in the sands of a distant beach…or in the middle of a road, like your unknown turtle.

  14. In my youth that turtle would have ended up in the pot. Today I applaud your actions and hope he/she somehow survived.

    No turtle is an island entire of itself; every turtle
    is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
    if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
    is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
    well as a manor of thy friends or of thine
    own were; any turtle’s death diminishes me,
    because I am involved in faunakind.
    And therefore never send to know for whom
    the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

    With abject apologies to John Donne and his descendants.

  15. Pascvaks,
    Your comments remind me of the humming bird that got trapped in my garage and could not get out even though I opened the double door.

    Fortunately, he/she was soon exhausted and allowed me to carry him/her to safety.

  16. Owen Hughes says:

    Chiefio: great to hear your latest story. Thank you for (maybe) saving a life. The Great Turtle takes note; seriously, you have a special knack for observation, for acting on your values (and good values they are), for thinking deeply on your actions, and for sharing your thoughts. Thanks a bunch.

  17. E.M.Smith says:

    @Matthew W:

    People can be pretty tough too. I worked in a hospital in an earlier phase of life, and sometimes there were surprisingly damaged folks who would live (and sometimes folks with very little wrong who would not…)

    A lot of it depended on if someone bled out or not. If you don’t bleed out or have brain swelling, and avoid an out of control infection, most physical damage can heal. I was most worried about the bleeding from Sir Turtle, but I think I got him positions so as to slow / stop it.

    FWIW, at some of the hotels ‘on property’, the rate for the MINIMUM room was over $500 a day. (One person, bad view…) The best rooms for more than one person can run to insane prices. I’ve put some thought time into it, and it basically comes down to how many folks in the world want to stay in a fairly small number of rooms that are super close to the parks. I’ll have more on that in a future posting on the economics of location.


    The spouse and I have an interesting mix of “compare and contrast”. On some things we’re the same, on others we are opposites. It’s finding the mix that complements that seems to be what matters.

    So she just loved being one monorail ride away from the park, and I just loved watching her enjoy it ;-)


    Up is down, indeed. If Sir Turtle had not been stunned, he likely would have been in panic. But as it was, he mostly just was confused. Then placed in familiar woodland setting.

    At The Floridian hotel (where we had both a wonderful dinner at the mid-scale restaurant and a hideous lunch at the only thing open at about 3 pm; a combination snack bar and video game room) there were a few ‘tweety birds’ living in the snack bar. These ‘pudgy budgies’ were very adept at working the carpet or lunch (lots of dropped fries) and had no interest in leaving the enclosed space. At the Polynesian, the store clerk told the spouse that the ducks liked to wander into the store (as she was observing one in the store…) and that one time a whole herd of them came in to avoid some bad weather. Even ducks can figure out how to work automatic doors ;-)

    When a storm came through (last Saturday or so) there were a dozen ducks enjoying the heated pool. Guess they didn’t like the big waves on the lake…

    @R. Shearer:

    I tend not to mix stock trading with emotional things. It’s important to have zero emotional response when dealing with markets…

    I call this a ‘ring down’ or sometimes a ‘wedging in’ if it is dampening in range. At the point of the ‘wedge’ the two forces of buying an selling collide and a winner is found. For the ‘sideways roller’ that doesn’t get ever narrower ranges, it’s harder to know when the point of the wedge is reached. In the end, though, your approach is correct. Presume that the ‘rolling’ continues and be ready to swap to a momentum bet as soon as the rolling fails.


    I may just put up an ‘open thread Thursday’ posting each week, or some such. We’ll see. I’ll also likely be getting more posting time now too.

    Per the ‘occupy whatever’ folks, I’ll be opening a posting on them, too. IMHO it’s way to structured to be accidental… It looks like an artificial attempt to create a countervailing movement to the Tea Party. It will fail.


    Life is a necessary consequence of the way excess energy can run entropy backwards. So with enough excess energy, life can be created as ‘excess organization’ by having some of the energy undo the tendency to increased entropy in one small place while increasing it elsewhere. I sometimes wonder if there is an ‘excess of confusion’ in some places created by concentrating understanding in others…


    I’ve had ‘road kill’. It isn’t bad… But this one wasn’t dead yet and I didn’t have a decent kitchen to work with… So life gets helped until it has a natural end…

    @Owen Hughes:

    I’m just a bit more ‘self aware’ than some folks is all. That and a bit more driven by basic understandings (fundamental truths? values?). I like the notion of a Great Turtle ;-)

  18. Pascvaks says:

    Kind’a, sort’a waaaaaaaay off topic? Maybe not? Why did the Turtle Corss the road? Maybe s/he didn’t have “anything better to do”? Sometimes I don’t have anything better to do and I let the grey matter that I still have wander across the road for lack of anything better to do. Everynow and then, more frequently now than then, I wonder what’s on the “other side of the last road?”. And every so often too, I wonder about the BIG “Why?” of life question.

    I seem to be developing, or inclining toward, a theory that we kind’a, sort’a got it all wrong. Let’s say we do have immortal souls. Who knows, maybe all life is “immortal” too. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be a tree? Or a turtle? Or a real Green Hornet?

    Maybe, just maybe, the Universe is Heaven. Maybe there’s more than one Universe too. Maybe the thing we call death is a variable finish line for one “life” and a doorway to other “lives”. A door that leads to a room with an infinite number of other doors? A room where The Immortal Us resides?

    Hay! Don’t laugh! Stop snikering! OK, that does it! I’m not going to say anything else if you don’t get up off the floor…

  19. adolfogiurfa says:

    @E.M. We are all glad to have you back (this is really a selfish feeling as we enjoy your articles. These would make a succesful magazine), so do not hesitate in giving us a new present. Thanks!

  20. H.R. says:



    I may just put up an ‘open thread Thursday’ posting each week, or some such. We’ll see. I’ll also likely be getting more posting time now too.”

    Well, I hope you’re getting settled in and can post more but yeah, if you’re short of time, an open thread will be nice.


  21. E.M.Smith says:


    Why would I be laughing? It’s rather like the Hindu wheel of life, so who’s to say? Yes, I’ve pondered the point of view of other life forms. I’ve often thought of trees facing the sun, turning their leaves to absorb its gift. Having a pace of sentience measured in months as chemical signals shift. Is there transmigration of souls as we work our way up the path to nobility? Who knows. That is a matter of faith, not evidence.

    I’m personally inclined to the notion that there is just ‘one life’ and we are all aspects of it. When some skin cells die, fall off, and become bacteria food, I don’t feel like I’ve “died”. So why would the biosphere feel any ‘death’ from the passing of one tree, or one person? Why would a ‘soul’ need to migrate when all of life stays on living? Is our passing any more important than the loss of some used up skin?

    Yes, I’m much more aware of ‘me’ than of ‘you’, and that makes me much more careful about ‘me’. Extend that to a chicken or a tomato plant and it’s even more extreme. How much of it really matters? I don’t know… But life goes on and the best I can do is to do what I think is right along the way to becoming tomato food… We will all get ‘recycled’ in one way or another. Ashes scattered on the sea enter plants. Bodies on land get turned into soil. So some time ago I was a plant, and soon enough I will be again. Just my awareness didn’t make the trip. So how much does that detail matter to life? Not a whole lot…

  22. P.G. Sharrow says:

    Both body and soul, we are part of the whole. pg

  23. P.G. Sharrow says:

    I ‘ve spent the evening with friends, drinking this years new wine and telling lies about old exploits ;-) Any resumbance to intelligence is acendencel acendencal….. is a mistake pg

Comments are closed.