Turtle’s life isn’t just day at the races

By Grant McGee: Local Columnist

The other day I encountered a smooshed Southwestern box turtle on Kimberly Lane while tooling along on my bicycle. I paused for a minute to look at the little guy. No fuss, no muss, the turtle was just smooshed. “Well, I guess you won’t be in the turtle race,” I said.

The turtle race I was referring to is The Great American Turtle Race. It’s set for 9 a.m. Saturday at the Curry County Fairgrounds.

I’ve come to believe the turtle race is good for the Curry County turtle population. It’s like a big turtle convention. Not only do they get to see old friends but a little turtle “speed dating” goes on. You can generally spot the girl turtles because when the race begins you’ll see a lone turtle trotting off followed by two or three other grinning turtles.

All this turtle talk got me to thinking about the shelled critters.

I don’t know how many times I tried to keep a turtle as a pet. I’d put it in my yard then fix it up with some vegetables and water and stuff. The next day I’d come out and the turtle was gone, nowhere to be found. This has happened to me many times. I have a theory that turtles don’t simply walk away from captivity, they “beam” themselves to other locations like in “Star Trek.”

The first time I ate turtle was in turtle soup. I was just a kid and my dad’s travels as a secret agent (not really, I was just seeing if you were paying attention) had taken us to the Bahamas, a place known for turtle soup. A bowl of the stuff was placed before me, a tomato-based concoction with hunks of dark meat in it. It tasted like it had been strained through a mildewed sock.

Years ago, on one of my first jobs back in the hills of Virginia, a radio listener brought me some fried mud turtle. Mud turtles are your basic, standard issue turtle that live in creeks and rivers.

“G’wan, eat hit,” said the listener in his mountain accent.
“Well I …”
“EAT HIT,” he said with a look that indicated if I didn’t he’d call up some relatives from the movie “Deliverance” to make sure I did.

I don’t know why the guy brought me the fried turtle bits; maybe it was just mountain hospitality. Then again, maybe it wasn’t turtle at all. It might have been fried tire because that’s what it tasted like. He had this strange smile on his face that seemed to say, “I just got this city slicker to eat fried tire.”

I chewed and chewed and chewed and chewed and chewed and chewed. I decided to file whatever it was behind my molars. Then I smiled.

“Good ain’t hit? Have s’more,” he insisted.
“Oh, I couldn’t. I’m having lunch in a bit.”

After he left I leaned out the back window of the radio station and with a mighty “PA-TOO” sent the hunk of stuff flying into the woods. I couldn’t get the taste out of my mouth for hours.

So here’s to the turtles, The Great American Turtle Race and the little guy smooshed flatter than a tortilla out on Kimberly Lane. Hope you never knew what hit you, little buddy. And just know that some of us might’ve helped you across the road.

Grant McGee hosts the weekday morning show on KTQM-FM in Clovis. Contact him at: