Beginning of the Road

By D.C. Sorensen

September ?  1996

With the first frost I had hoped that the parade of wild critters would end in our household.  We’ve had tiny tree toads that could sit on a penny.  We’ve had toads that are big and bloated.  We watched polliwogs grow limbs and crawfish swim about in our fish tank.  If the kidlets could not catch any food for these visitors they would let them go.  So all our visitors were treated kindly.  We learned from them and maybe they learned from us.  I’m not sure what a crayfish can learn, but you never know for sure. 

With the exception of the dog from h*ll, we are down to one temporary visitor.  This particular critter I cannot blame on the kids.  You see, I brake for turtles.  I like turtles.  Turtles are neat.

It was once possible for kids in the city to have pet turtles.  You could buy them at Ben Franklin for about 50 cents.  They often came with their backs painted with a lovely flower design.  Turtles were good pets.  They were far more interactive than a goldfish.  They only good thing about goldfish is they’re easily disposed of.  Turtles need minimal attention.  If they get out of their tray, they can survive behind a chest of drawers for at least two weeks.  Try that with a goldfish.

That fun all ended when some pointy headed government official determined that pet turtles could kill everyone with some kind of disease.  I wonder if they ever tested how much bacteria thrives on a dog?

Anyway, back to our new pet.  About two weeks ago I was driving back from Tower and saw a turtle crossing the road.  I diligently swerved out of the way and pulled over.  In my rear view mirror I saw another car swerve around the turtle.  After the car passed, I ran to pick up the turtle.  Unfortunately, I saw blood and a cracked shell.  The poor thing was road kill.  I gently kicked the broken form over to the side so other cars would not have to swerve.  To my surprise I saw the front legs move.  I picked up the turtle and saw two eyes looking at me.  What could I do, but take the poor thing home?

Once home, I examined the patient.  If did not look good. The subject was a big seven inch long painted turtle.  There was a nasty three inch crack on the top front shell.  On the bottom, the shell was cracked along both sides between the front and back legs.  Blood was oozing out from all the cracks.  The kidlets were very excited, but concerned about our new visitor.  Within two minutes they had named him Stripes.  I am not sure if the name was for the cracks or the yellow lines on his face.

Since it was after five I could not take him to the vets.  We placed Stripes in an empty aquarium and waited.  In the morning he was still alive.  That afternoon I took Stripes to see Dr. Peter Hughes.  Dr. Peter agreed that Stripes was lucky to be alive.  But Lord knows what internal damage he may have suffered.  I told the vet I was going to patch him up, but I thought a shot of antibiotics would do him good. 

After the shot, I took Stripes home for the next step of patching him.  I used marine epoxy with fiberglass to seal and strengthen Stripe’s shell.  It worked great.  Stripes is not only watertight, he is bombproof.  I thought of adding fins like the cars from the ‘50s had, but I behaved myself.

The next day we took him to the lake to do sea trials.  Poor Stripes just swam with one front paw and went in circles.  Then he sank like a rock.  After allowing Stripes several attempts, we brought him home for more rest.  We offered him worms and hamburger, but Stripes would not eat.  John O’Kane at Voyageur North Outfitters donated some free minnows for Stripes, but Stripes just didn’t care.  After one week I started to force feed Stripes some raw hamburger.  The next day it was obvious his plumbing was starting to work.  That was good news.

Hopefully, our little friend will heal soon so we can let him go before the lakes freeze over.  Whatever happens, we will try to keep him safe.  Meanwhile, we have converted our bathtub into Stripe’s bedroom.  Once a day we fill the tub with water and let Stripes swim around.  Once a day I make sure he eats something.  Once a day I wonder why I am such a sucker for helping wild critters in trouble.  I know there are others in Ely who have done no less for Mother Nature.  That is why most of us stay around here.  It certainly isn’t for the money!

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