Turtle crossing the road: The conclusion of the matter

Published 8:48 am Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Reaction time is the measured period between the presentation of a stimulus and a corresponding response. Seeing a falling glass and catching it. Feeling a biting mosquito and swatting it. Average time is ¼ second if only one action is required.

To detect an obstacle, stimulate the quadriceps and press the foot brake on a riding mower demands an entire second. One thousand milliseconds.

All this to say it was impossible for Cindy to stop the churning mower before reaching the turtle. The human body would not allow it. She could not prepare herself for what transpired.

It was a ball. A big brown and yellow ball just sitting there waiting to be grabbed. More than a country dog could stand. Bolting off the back porch, Butch raced across the yard and scooped up the object between clenched jaws. Its hardness puzzled him as he distanced himself between himself and his owner. “Food,” he surmised, racing off into the forest.

“Blame dog,” Cindy thought, correcting her steering for maximum cutting swath. She loved the ribbon-like look of fresh cut lawns.

Feeling himself being lifted and squeezed vise-like, the turtle ventured a peek out. Pink and slime. Nauseating. Something gooey splashed on his face and he closed the flap. He was going to be sick.

Having learned early on to be protective of potential food, Butch raced along old trails between the trees. He anticipated the delicacy between his teeth as a future feast. Slowing to a trot, he exited the forest, took a right through the soybean field and came upon Highway 614. Stopping, he dropped his prize beside the road and commenced his investigation. “Hmph,” he thought. Flipping the object over with his nose, he licked the underside. Another flick turned the object back upright.

And just like that he lost interest. Rather than food it seemed to be a toy. Only a toy. Wheeling around, Butch headed home.

After 30 minutes — detecting no movement — the turtle peered out and couldn’t believe his eyes. Over there- across the road- was where he’d come from! Over here- where he was — was where he was going!

Taking a deep breath and letting out all the stress of somersaults, dog saliva and near-death encounters, he turned around and ambled toward the trees, dreaming of uneventful, unadventurous, wonderful forest life. He was home.