Tangling With a Turtle

We love visiting the botanical gardens. It is one of our favorite places. The kids love it because of the train, the great children’s area, the butterfly house, etc. I love it because they get plenty of exercise without realizing it, lots of fresh air, and are totally exhausted by the time we leave. Win/win, folks.

We have been members at the gardens for years and enjoyed many hours of nature’s bliss. Here’s a picture of them in years past:

This day was no different, really. We were having a marvelous time exploring the fish pond, playing in the ball pit, having a picnic lunch (which of course was the highlight since I packed them lunchables…crackers, deli meat, and cheese. Why didn’t I think of this ingenious business idea?).

Anyway, we had a great time and decided to wrap up our outing by taking a stroll thru the peaceful and beautiful butterfly house. It just happens to be the largest enclosed butterfly house in the country, by the way. Only the best for my babies, you know.

It really is lovely. A waterfall gently cascades into a small pond. Gorgeous flowers at every turn, sweet little birds of some kind waddle along the ground, monarch butterflies everywhere you look…it’s a little piece of heaven.

The feature attraction of the butterfly house, of course, has always been the turtles. Cute little box turtles reside in a small enclosed area, munching on strawberries (to the great delight of my girls), wandering in the grass, and doing whatever else box turtles do. The kids adore being able to pick them up and muster up the courage to touch their (nasty) little feet. I always just smile and pretend to be a lover of nature and its creatures and stay a safe distance away.

On this particular day, however, there was an excited buzz in the air. Olivia had spotted something unusual, never before seen on our many visits to the butterfly house.

A huge, gargantuan turtle had emerged from the pond (where they almost always sit on the large rocks sunning themselves and are out of reach) and was happily wandering throughout the shrubbery and flowers.

Now you must understand that my oldest daughter is an extreme animal lover. Really. This is the child who would be quite happy to turn my home into a rescue shelter for strays and wouldn’t mind a bit being known as the crazy cat lady with felines taking over our home. She loves lizards, fish, hamsters,

dogs…you name it, if it is not human, she probably wishes she had it for a pet (because her little sisters as pets is not working out so well. They are very difficult to train).

“Mom! Mom! Look! One of the big turtles is out! Can I pick it up? Please?”

And this is where the critical error was made, folks. In all my infinite wisdom as a mother, I said yes. It’s a turtle, I thought. Harmless.

Oh, the delight that was hers as she happily scooped up the biggest turtle she’d ever been around! A huge smile on her face and the admiration of her sisters and friends, Olivia was in turtle bliss.

I’m sure you can imagine what’s in store. We all know that bliss with animals can never last very long.

About a minute into the turtle holding, after all the other children had approached and touched his shell, laughed at his ugly claws, and (wisely) turned down offers to hold it themselves, Olivia was still thrilled. She was chatting happily and looking at me as she spoke.

It was like a scary movie where you realize what’s going to happen before the victim does. I watched, helpless to stop the scene before me, as that turtle opened its mouth, revealing a sharp “beak” searching for something to clamp down on. Yep. That turtle didn’t even hesitate. Olivia’s finger got just close enough and he chomped down on it.

Now if you know anything about large turtles, you know they don’t let go. Here’s Olivia, yelping and screaming and crying as this huge turtle holds onto her middle finger for dear life. Olivia jerks her hand hard enough to shake the turtle off, but this caused her skin to be ripped as he was thrown to the ground, making the pain much worse.

It may have been the last deed of that turtle’s life. If turtles have 9 lives like cats, I’m pretty sure he used most of them right then. He was thrown to the concrete with such force that he bounced. I’m sure he was never so thankful for his shell.

After a quick clean up and insisting that she not look at the wound (if you’re a mom you know that the sight of blood makes the screaming exponentially worse), we headed for home. The botanical gardens had suddenly dropped considerably in the popular attraction category. We still haven’t been back and no one has asked to go.

Turtles. Who knew? Seems like kind of a random thing to have happen to your child, doesn’t it? But I can tell you this: it will be a cold day before any Webber women want to hear the story of the tortoise and the hare. In fact, we all now cheer for the hare and hope the tortoise gets run over by a semi. Or made into soup. Or dies a slow death stuck on his back (these are my 7-year-olds’ wishes, not mine. Do not email me, animal people. I’ll just delete it :)


Paula said…
Poor thing! Bless her heart!

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