A snake with luggage

Bob Speirs is pictured balancing a baby box turtle. Courtesy photo

Last week I wrote of turtle rescue while coaching three of my most successful senior debaters at the national tournament in Dallas Texas. 

The very finest competitors from around the world traveled with their parents and coaches to try and persuade a dozen judges over two days that they should advance to the final rounds. 

We did our best and held our own, winning more than we lost. But we did not advance. 

All were more than ready to leave the metro area and head home to God’s country. 

I love Texas and spent four years of my youth in San Antonio learning to worship football and deal with perspiration at all hours of the day and night. 

I had forgotten how much of the air I inhaled back then was flavored with the scent of melting asphalt or musty air conditioning. I sometimes forget how fortunate we are to breath cool, clean, air tinged with the scent of pine.  

To share a natural world that still has many of its native animals and habitats. 

I arrived home to a pair of antelope does tending their fawns in my driveway, and the song of meadowlarks and night hawks. 

The clover on the hillsides was just coming into bloom and the storm clouds here rarely produce tornadoes. 

The 1100-mile trip was a testament to the devastating effects of flooding. 

Water and former roads dotted the landscape through every state we passed through. The 5 million people who live within an hour drive of Dallas were not spared from devastation.  

Lawns were piled high with weeks old debris that had uprooted and shattered ancient trees. 

Torrential downpours flooded the streets while we were there and we were aghast at the numbers of highway fatalities that were posted on electronic billboards as you tried to pierce traffic flows and make your way from hotel to tournament. 

South Dakota averages just over 100 and Texas over 3,000. 

Nearly 30 million people live in the giant state and even more come to visit. 

That much traffic leaves little room for wildlife and even my experienced eye could pull only three deer from the landscape on the entire trip down, two more on the way back. 

There were more deer grazing in town on our arrival home than we saw on the rest of the trip. 

With that stage set, the team was ready for a little rescuing of their own. 

High waters have saturated the sands along the southern border of the state. 

Burrowing animals have been driven above ground. 

While making our way home, I was startled by an unexpected sight, facing near certain death in the center of the pavement. 

Highway speeds can play tricks with your eyes, but it was a lonely stretch of road and I had just completed the research on the habitats and home ranges of our state’s turtle populations. 

If the Game and Fish had told me that we had alligators on the border of Nebraska I would have placed that in my data bank along with a healthy grain of salt. 

To wheel around and rescue an ornamental western box turtle from being crushed by traffic made everyone’s day. 

None of us had ever seen one. 

It was immature, so cuddly in a reptilian way. 

It was handed back and forth amongst the students who oohed and awed until one took possession. 

It reappeared an hour later as she slipped it over a young man’s shoulder. 

A strapping 200 pounder who is afraid of little, but snakes. 

Apparently, a turtle is simply a snake packing luggage. 

The girls laughed until they cried at his distress. 

I’m still in educator mode with my new companion. 

Granddaughter, Viva June was not overly impressed by her first box turtle, but grandpa is certain that all photos look better accompanied by a two-month-olds   smile. 

I was sadly reminded that not all deer accidents happen on the highway as the haying season has finally kicked off. 

Buzzards descending into the newly cropped rows remind me that there are still unintended consequences to all that we do. 

Still, between hunting seasons, it is best to give back when we can. 

The Speirs family has owned and operated Crow Creek Wildlife Management Service since 1996.

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