The tortoise likes mobility. While he can’t move quickly in comparison to many other species, the turtle has the advantage of bringing his home with him. Like a popup camping trailer, he is ever the nomad. Even though he moves slowly, he can cover a surprising amount of ground in an afternoon.

Turtles are samplers. My wife once found a row of cucumbers, close to the ground, each with a triangular chunk removed from it. She’s seen a few things in the garden, but never this. She started lifting the cucumber leaves one by one, following the row all the way to the end, where the turtle was. He’d spent the afternoon walking down that row, taking one bite from each of the cucumbers he could reach.

The tortoise lives on the fringe of things. You rarely see mobs of turtles behaving badly with their terrapin friends. More often, they are observers, commenters, or critics. Roger Ebert may be my favorite turtle.

Turtles will travel miles for really awkward sex. There was a spot in the back yard where, year after year at the appointed time, you could find the turtles mating. There were probably generations of turtles going back decades, or even hundreds of years, that had been coming to that exact spot for the purpose. The fact that dwellings had been erected in the vicinity bothered them not at all. In their ardor, they barely noticed human homesteads or their creations.


Current location : Ten miles past Grenada, MS

Miles to go : 286

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