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March 22, 2011

A Southern Dish

Frankie went on his first walk around the block today.


I was peacefully sitting on the couch writing another Frankie Tortoise Tail when I heard a knock at my front door. Postal Worker? UPS? FedEx? No, it's a lady dressed in a T-shirt with a frog on it. This is interesting, but I am weary of solicitors. I throw caution in the wind and answer the door.

“Your turtle is around the block!” she is a bit frantic.

At first there is no comprehension on my part. My mind sees Frankie walking out the garage door this morning and sitting on his favorite basking spot. When was that? An hour ago?

“He is moving pretty fast up the street.”

This makes sense. The little box turtles in this area don't move all that quickly.

“I saw him walk past my house. I remembered that you had a big turtle you walked. I didn't have your phone number so I came over and got you right away. He is up the street over there,” she points not to the street in front of us, not to the area at the bottom of our street but farther past and up the next street.

Wow. Frankie is walking the regular path we go when we walk around the neighborhood.

I then picture myself running a couple of blocks to catch up with Frankie. By the time I get there I will be near a heart attack and unable to get him back home. As I step out my door to pinpoint Frankie's location I notice that the neighbor drove her car here. OMG. How far is “over there?”

Opting to conserve my strength for Frankie-recovery, I ask if she can drive me to where she last saw Frankie. She says, “Sure.” I grab my outside Frankie shoes (always by the door, always ready for an emergency), grab my keys and follow her to her car.

Just as I get to her car I hear a loud voice call out from “over there,”


I don't even know exactly where I am yelling or to who but I answer, “YES!!! I AM. I AM COMING!” I can yell very loud.

We get into her car. She backs out of my drive way, down the street, and turns right.

A white City of Leeds pick up truck is partially blocking the street and a man is walking by Frankie's side attempting to “guide him.”

Thanking my neighbor (whom I have never met but she knows me...I mean she knows Frankie) I get out of the car and make the final sprint to the runaway Frankie and new friend.

“Is this your turtle?” he asks. I acknowledge him, yes this monster is mine.

“I thought it was one of those snapping turtles. I was gettin’ ready to put it in the back of my truck and cook it up for dinner.” His cell phone rings. “Yeah, it belongs to someone. Nope we can't eat it.”

The guy then explains to me that he saw Frankie at the very top of the street. He turned Frankie around and headed him back down the street when he heard me yell. “He was walking really fast.”

Frankie would make good time. This is our familiar route around the neighborhood. Two more turns and Frankie would have made it to the main street where turtles are at grave risk, from cars and more people that would eat them.

What is it about Alabama that so many people here savor the idea of cooking Frankie?

The guy’s two friends in another city pick up arrive in time to take photos and hear stories about how the first guy saw Frankie and decided he wanted to eat him. They all laugh as they decide that Frankie is big enough to feed all three of them and their families. I am rolling my eyes. I explain that land tortoises meat can be a fatal to humans due to some of the food items they eat like poison mushrooms.

I am telling a big fat white lie. Still, these three guys will think twice before taking a tortoise home for dinner.

So Frankie is back under my control again. The Good Samaritan neighbor asks if I want to put Frankie in the backseat of her car to drive home. No telling what Frankie would do to her backseat so I tell her I will walk him back home. From here to home is a normal walk distance for Frankie and me.

…..with no water, or tortoise pick-up straps, or skate board, or garden cart.

We start down the street. Frankie wants to taste test all the newly blooming flowers at each neighbor's yard. Five houses later I start picking dandelions and lining them up one after the other to keep Frankie walking a straight path home. We get to the neighbor's house that uses weed killer. There are no dandelions for the next six houses. My luck.

It turns into a battle of wits vs. brute stubborn strength. I am loosing a battle over bright yellow flowers planted by a mail box. I am going to have to pick Frankie up.

I am wondering how much Advil I have in the house.

Straighten back, tighten core stomach muscles, clasp hands around struggling 75 pound sulcata, pick up with the legs and not the back. Realize it does not matter, this is gonna hurt. Take seven steps holding 75 pound tortoise and realize there is no way I can walk up this steep hill any farther without requiring hospitalization. At least we are past the yellow flowers.

Three houses to go. Two houses to go. We are at the bottom of our drive way. Our drive way is steeper than all the other streets and driveways in the neighborhood. I am wondering if God is testing me.

Frankie and I get to the top of the drive where I can see the busted down cinder block and fence post barrier that keeps Frankie headed to the back yard. The posts look like they've been thrown about like toothpicks.

We pass over the posts and make it to the grass leading to the back yard.

Oh, crap. This is all my fault. I am to blame. Yes, I put Frankie outside this morning. He did stop to bask at his favorite morning basking spot. He would have then proceeded to his backyard paradise for grazing and walking. But no. Leann forgot to open the gate.

What was a sulcata to do? I guess Frankie waited for a few moments for me to meet him at the gate and let him in. But no, I was inside writing a Frankie Tortoise Tails (not this one, but another one). Frankie probably decided to go back to the garage door. Seeing the door closed he had but no other choice than crash through the barrier and take a walk around the neighborhood.

He really can't be doing this alone. It's too dangerous out there. He could get lost. Dumb dogs could attack him. He could get run over by a car. Worse of all, here in Alabama, too many people think he looks like dinner.

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