The sun was setting in the Oklahoma sky as we drove towards Tulsa from the smaller town of Muskogee. It had been the first time Kyle had ever been to the town in which his Grandpa Tom had grown up and later died. Now he and I were returning to our hotel room after a full days visit.
“Those are armadillo alongside the road,” Kyle said.
He was talking about the mangled bodies of the hard-shelled animals, now road kill which lay along the highway as we sped by. I knew if an armadillo ran out in front of our car it could cause considerable damage.
I thought, “Cripes, I hope we don’t hit one of those things.”
Just then Kyle yelled, “Look out!”
Jerking the car hard to the right, I attempted to avoid a rock in the path of our tires. But it was too late, I struck it and it ricocheted off the bottom of the car twice.
Kyle spun around in his seat to look out the back window, “You just ran over a turtle!”
He looked at me, expecting me to stop. The look worked as I stopped and slowly backed the car up to where the object lay in the middle of our travel lane.
I got out and walked over to it only to find out Kyle was right — it was a turtle.
The creature was dead though as all four of its legs hung limp from its shell, as did its head. To make matters worse, the turtles tongue dangled loosely from it slack jaw.
I was met by Kyle as I returned to the car.
“Ah, the poor little guy,” Kyle said, as he held out his hands to hold it, “I can’t believe we killed it.”
He was obviously saddened by the whole affair as he slumped down by the side of the car while I opened the trunk of the car and searched for a plastic bag.
“Yuck, it jus’ crapped on me!” Kyle shouted.
I laughed at him as I took the dead turtle and put it in the empty grocery bag.
And as Kyle was cleaning the turtle dung off his hiking shorts, the deceased reptile was placed in the empty ice chest inside the car’s trunk. We then continued down the road.
The following day, Kyle and I planned to bury the turtle on one of the many little side roads in the area.
It was Kyle who decided to pop open the trunk and look at the remains of the turtle again. When he did, he was surprised to find the plastic white bag moving around in circles.
He hollered, “Dad, it’s alive!”
“Well I’ll be,” was all I could say.
I was surprise to see the plastic bag as it bumped into the sides and corners of the ice chest.
Gently I reached down and picked it up. The little beast was strong as ever and struggling to get out of the bag.
I held on to the bag as Kyle reached in and pulled the turtle out.
He set the softball-sized reptile on the asphalt near the car and watched it. At first the animal didn’t seem to want to go anywhere, but then it started walking in righthand circles.
I looked at my son and said, “We can’t very well let him go like this.”
Kyle smiled, “Then can I keep him as a pet?”
“Only, if he doesn’t get better before we get home,” was my answer.
We spent the next hour getting the needed supplies such as an aquarium, bedding and worms for our journey back to Nevada. We wanted to make the trip home for Kyle’s new pet as comfortable as possible.
It took the box turtle two days to stop walking in circles, by that time we were in Cheyenne. That’s where Kyle decided to name his pet turtle ‘Keeble,’ after a cartoon character he liked.
Still, I knew there was something not quite right with the thing. For instance, it refused to retract its head or legs when either Kyle or I came near it.
That seemed unusual. Every turtle I had ever come across had reacted to the presence of a human by retreating into its shell.
‘Keeble’ also had no problem being hand fed, though watching him eat a worm was nasty business. Finally, there was the fact that the turtle followed Kyle everywhere as if Kyle were its family.
That night Kyle asked to talk to his step-mom. He decided to tell her about ‘Keeble.’
Instantly I could tell that the conversation was not going too well when Kyle said, “Hey, it could be worse.” The thirteen year old paused for a second, “We could have run over an armadillo and be bringing that home instead.”
I had to step outside the hotel room so my wife wouldn’t hear me laughing.