On my daily walk along Rocky Creek last spring I noticed an unusual looking cream-colored turtle in a shallow pool. My wildlife reference book said it’s called a stinkpot or musk turtle as it secretes a foul-smelling yellowish fluid when frightened. They bask in the sun in shallow water to raise their temperature and speed up their metabolism.
For the next week I stopped to admire the eleven shell plates on its smooth football size “dome” and the pale stripes on the side of its head. Watching the turtle sunbath on the bottom of the sandy creek became one of the highlights of my day.
I was also concerned. Georgia was in a severe drought and the creek was drying up. Except for the turtle sometimes facing north and sometimes south it seldom moved as the water retreated.
At breakfast I told my husband the sad news. “I think the turtle is dying!”
Alarmed we decided to relocate it to after lunch.
I began my morning chores. A few hours later my husband appeared. “Your ‘dying’ turtle is sitting at the front door of our cabin.”
Shocked, we got ready to relocate it immediately. The turtle had climbed up a steep hill to our house.
My husband appeared with a spade. “I’m going to pick it up,” I said firmly.
“I wouldn’t if I were you. Your book says they bite.”
“The turtle’s my buddy!” I said sharply. I gently picked the turtle up by its shell. It stretched out its thick neck and hissed. I carefully placed it in a large cardboard box.
We drove the turtle to the Towaliga River a couple of miles down the road.
A mother and father were fishing at the water’s edge with their teenage daughter. When they saw the turtle they dropped their rods and rushed over.
“Isn’t it beautiful?” I smiled with pride. Staring at the turtle they nodded.
I placed the turtle on a sandbar next to the water. It sat dead still. Then like a lightening bolt it shot into the water and disappeared upstream. We all cheered.
My husband and I grinned all the way home. The turtle’s presence gave us the gift of gratitude.