Hurry! (There’s a Box Turtle Next Door)



The first word out of the phone was “Hurry!”


“There’s a box turtle over here!”

It was my neighbor calling. I grabbed the camera and ran next door.

“Over here!” was the response when the neighbor heard me coming.


On first sight, the turtle was plodding sturdily across the neighbor’s yard.

And “here” was a beautiful and terribly worn old box turtle.


Missing a few claws. 

I picked her up for a quick photoshoot.


In the box turtle’s world, a yellow eye means “female”.

She was strong, her legs pushed against my hand as I clicked the camera.

Front, side, rear…


She was old and time-scarred. A veteran of encounters that had maimed her. Her shell was chipped and dinged.


Front of shell, worn and chipped. 

Her left lower jaw was damaged, her right front leg was missing claws, and her left front leg was just a stump.

Later that day I remembered an event from years ago — of finding a badly wounded box turtle on our road, freshly wounded from being run over by a car. The head and front part of the turtle were damaged, but the turtle was still alive. It was bloody and in such bad shape that it was painful to look at. I moved it to the side of the road, hoping against hope that the animal would survive. If this is that turtle, which it could well, be, then, well, Glory Be!


Damaged jaw, left leg just a stump, but still full of life. 

The bottom of her shell had yet more damage.

It also had partly worn off initials.

What do you read?


I see the initials N. (?). N.

The date 07.


“07.” Maybe 2007, but also maybe 1907. Given the eroded condition of the inscription, I’m not at all sure we’re looking at a nine year old inscription. Carving on turtles is very seldom done these days, but was common in the past. I’m going to stick my neck out and suggest that this turtle got its initials a hundred and nine years ago. Why? Precedence. There are other old turtles in the neighborhood. When my daughters were younger, in the 1990s, they regularly found a box turtle whose oldest initials were 1861. Which makes a 1907 guess for this critter seem very reasonable.

My friend Suzan Bellincampi, of Felix Neck, wrote an article about this turtle encounter. You might enjoy it.

This venerable creature has taken a licking and is still ticking.

May she continue to live long and prosper.

One response to “Hurry! (There’s a Box Turtle Next Door)

  1. I believe female turtles remain fertile (that rhyme is too good) until they die—they keep producing eggs, if there is an appropriate male around. At least, I have read that turtles into their sixties still lay legs. I have never heard of carving into a turtle’s shell, which seems cruel—but it must mean that the longevity of turtles was always known and appreciated. Turtle, 1. Carver, 0.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s