Save a turtle, lose an eye

Published 1:28 pm Wednesday, April 8, 2020

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By Jeff Turner

Spirit of Moonpie and I spent the 2nd through the 3rd on the Nottoway below Hercules. The water was a little high, cloudy, 58 degrees and very fast. Air temps ranged from 46 to 65 degrees. I saw no water quality issues. Trash was worse than normal for that part of the river, but that’s par for the course since that part of the river has been very busy recently.

I did not get to fish very much on this trip before the accident occurred. I was catching fair size white perch to beat the band though. I was catching them jigging a quarter-ounce blade bait. I tried for shad on that part of the river, but did not have a bite.

Yep, not a good trip for me. About noon the first day I happened upon an itty-bitty turtle stranded on a pile of that granola-looking stuff that has now been identified as cypress galls. Look it up, each one has a worm in it. Anyway, the little turtle was having a terrible time on the ball bearing-acting galls and could not get any traction. So, I grabbed it and found a nice sunny sandy beach to sit it on so it could warm up. To get to that beach I had to crash through some limbs, which is nothing new to me as I do that hundreds of times a year picking up trash out there. This time, though, I was wearing my new glasses that are not wrap-around like the ones I have been wearing that I picked out to wear to give me more eye protection from sticks, bugs, etc.

ANYWAY, after setting the turtle on bikini beach, I turned just the right way and POWWW, right in the left eye I got poked with a limb. I instantly knew it was bad as I could not see out of it at all. The pain was excruciating. I tried taking some pics of it so I could see how bad it was but that didn’t work. So, I called Freezing Deer and told her to high tail it to the boat landing with water and Q-tips so we could see how bad it was. She determined there was nothing in the eye, and since I had just spent three hours setting up camp I elected to stay.

We washed the eye with cold water several times as I had done also right after the hit. That might have been what saved me from it being worse as I believe that cut down on some swelling. We made a patch for it that helped with the pain, however within an hour I had to remove that because not having depth perception for someone that can’t hardly walk anyway was just too dangerous. Needless to say, that rest of the day and that night were really really bad. The campfire was not good for the eye and neither was the lantern as by then the eye was super light sensitive on top of feeling like there was a nail stuck in it. Amazingly, I did sleep pretty well that night.

The next morning, I could not open the eye until I washed it, it was like glued shut. After I pried it open, I could see out of it and made the decision that while I could use both eyes I should probably get out of the wind and pollen and get home where I could start antibiotic drops and better care for the injury.

Extricating myself out of there with partial vision and being in extreme pain was quite a challenge, but the good Lord was looking after me and got me home safely. Driving was not fun. Needless to say, I am going back to the more protective eyeglasses from now on. I am still glad I saved the little turtle (that I named Pokie), and very glad I didn’t permanently loose my eye this time on the two rivers we call the Nottoway and Blackwater.

To contact Jeff about river issues, email him at