Our youngest, a son, age 1o and soon to turn 11, loves turtles. He is often reading all the materials he can find on them via the internet and in a book we bought him 2 years ago, The Turtle, by Lenny Flank Jr. When we moved to the Rolla area, almost 3 years ago now, we decided to rent a house until our Florissant house sold. Providentially, we found a rental house, large enough for our family of 8 just outside the city limits, on the west side of Rolla. Living in the country for most of the 2011-2012 school year let us have many encounters with nearby cattle and wildlife. With a small stream cutting across the 5 acres at the rental house, turtles were inevitably found and this added to our youngest’s turtle love, or mania, if you ask his older siblings about it.
Springtime in Phelps County revealed to us that lots of turtles are in the area as they are trying to cross the roads, both rural and city streets. We joked for a bit amongst our family that Rolla should’ve been named Turtle Town. We quickly decided, even husband did too, to slow down, if a turtle was seen trying to cross one of the County Roads, and if no other cars were coming, we’d pull over and help the turtle get across before it could become a traffic fatality.
In early May of 2012 we made the move to a “new to us” home inside the city limits. The next Spring, 2013, our older kids were in the backyard to collect the dog and bring him inside the house when they found a turtle, a box turtle, slowly making its long trek across our yard. They were able to corral it and called the baby of the family to come out and see it. With mine and husband’s permission, this Box turtle was added to our family. Our youngest, from all of his readings, was able to determine that the turtle was a female and he named her Amber, due to the colors on her shell. Amber quickly became the boarder in our sunroom. A good sized rock was hauled into the room for her to climb onto, a large crockery dish of water was also put out for her to use. She quickly adapted to her new environment, eating her meals that were placed on the rock(lettuces, strawberries, apples, worms, crickets, mushrooms, and mulberries were some of her daily fare), and sitting in the water dish. I even observed her dipping her head into the water from time to time, and yawning! Who knew turtles yawned? As the summer was nearing it’s end, I unfortunately took the turtle outside with me one evening as I did some weeding in a flowerbed. Amber saw my distracted state and made her escape. Our son was distraught, I felt horrible, and after some tears and a few days had gone by, we talked with our son and he agreed that Amber was probably better off in the wild.
Now it is almost our son’s 11th birthday and once again, we’ve given the okay for him to have a turtle for a pet. The local pet shop won’t sell them, and it’s not time to collect one from a road as they’re still hibernating, so the internet came to our rescue. After much research, a Red-Eared Slider is due to arrive anytime now for our son’s latest turtle adventure to begin. So here is hoping that the turtle has a long, happy life in our home, that our son will continue to develop his interest in these reptiles, and that the responsibilities that come with owning and caring for a pet will blossom in him.