Canku Ota

(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


June 16, 2001 - Issue 38



The Young Man and the Box Turtle


 by Richard L. Slater


This is a true story. I have added it to the story bag I made for my grandchildren. It pleases me to share it.

One day while working the young man became paralyzed in the right leg. He returned home that evening and told his wife what had happened and they decided to go to the doctor the next day.

The doctor examined the young man and could find nothing wrong with his leg, but it remained paralyzed and he was sent home. The young man was very worried because he could not work or hunt in the woods to feed his family.

Two days after coming home, the young man decided to try walking and took the old road that went towards the creek east of their house. As he limped and pulled himself along, he thought about what had happened and prayed that he would get better so that he could take care of his family.

He looked ahead down the old road and saw a box turtle lying on its back in the middle of the old dirt road. As he got closer he could see the turtle was still alive and struggling to get back on its feet. The young man knew the turtle would die if he didn't help it. As he reached the turtle, he wondered how the animal could have been turned over, possibly a fox or coyote. He looked for other animal tracks as he turned the turtle over. The old road was dry and dusty. No tracks, other than the print of the turtle shell were visible in the dust. He turned the turtle onto its feet and as the young man stood looking at the turtle it started crawling towards him. The turtle stopped, put one of its front feet on him and then turned and headed south into the woods.

The young man continued walking east to the creek and then turned back for home. When he came to the spot where he helped the turtle, he stopped to see if the turtle was still close to the road and checked the road for any tracks that he might have missed. There were no tracks other than his footprints in the dust of the old road bed.
He looked for the turtle south into the woods but didn't find it.

Each day the young man walked the old road to look for the turtle. Fall turned to Winter and by Spring the young mans leg had healed.

Thoughts of the road, the Box Turtle and the woods were put away for many years.

Many years later the old man passed the place where he and his family once lived and he remembered the road, the Box Turtle and the woods, south of the road. Finally, he understood what had happened that day along the old road so many years ago.

My children, at times during your life you will be given the opportunity to do good. Don't let those gifts get away. The good you do will be given back to you many times over.

About our writer:

  • Richard L. Slater
  • Wife's name: Janet
  • Married 37 years
  • 4 Children & 3 Grandchildren
  • Age : 62
  • Grew up in Missouri
  • Graduated from Missouri Western State College
  • Lenape from Mothers side of family
  • Irish/Eng from Fathers family
  • Retired
  • Hobbies: Wood & Bone carving
  • I work with black walnut and deer antler
  • Things I like to do:
  • 1. Go to Oklahoma for Delaware Days and Delaware Independence Day when I can.
  • 2. Learning the Lenape Language and teaching it to my Grandchildren.
Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina)

Box turtles of the genus Terrapene only occur in North America. The name Terrapene is appropriately derived from a native American (Algonquian) word for turtle. In the United States, two separate species groups are recognized: the common box turtle group (carolina) and the ornate group (ornata).

Box turtles are relatively small, land-dwelling reptiles with a unique, hinged shell design enabling them to completely withdraw their head and limbs and totally close their shell (like a closed box). This design affords total protection to their soft tissues when threatened by predators.

The range of the box turtle varies from the open woodlands of the Eastern Box Turtle, the swampy environment of the Florida species (Terrapene carolina bauri), the marshy habitat of the Gulf Coast Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina major), to the harsh desert environment of the Desert Box Turtle (Terrapene ornata luteola). Box turtles are terrestrial but occasionally enter water for soaking and/or drinking. They are generally regarded as poor swimmers.
Box turtles appear to be long-lived. One Three-Toed Box Turtle apparently lived 130 years at an Eastern zoo. Another was found in 1931 with a nearly worn-away date of 1809 carved into its shell!

Box turtles are omnivorous. They enjoy both live, whole animal food (earthworms, slugs, snails and other invertebrates), as well as fruits and berries.

Mating season occurs after the turtles emerge from hibernation. Courtship may be prolonged, involving the male's biting of the shell and limbs of the female. Egg-laying usually occurs in June and July, in the late afternoon or early evening. Between 2 and 7 (usually 4 or 5) eggs are laid, measuring 3/4 of an inch by 1 1/4 inch.

The Turtle Pages-Eastern Box Turtle





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