One stretch of US-50, just east of Sedalia, was two-lane. It still is today and, if my memory is correct, virtually unchanged since the early 1980s. As we drove over those few miles of highway, I turned to my wife and said, “Crunch! Crunch!”
|Three-toed Box Turtle|
You see, on one of those trips to Jeff City way back then, coincided with the annual Box Turtle migration. Most of the time, the number of turtles migrating is slight. You see a few here, a few there, no big deal.
On that day, back in the early 1980s, it was a big deal. For a distance of a mile or more, the highway was covered, yes literally covered with box turtles attemping to cross the highway. In my estimation, few turtles made it across that two-lane stretch of highway alive.
As far as the eye could see, in both directions, the carcasses of dead—mashed box turtles littered the highway. You have heard the expression, “Slicker than snot!” Let me assure you, the innards of mashed box turtles are truly “slicker than snot!”
The highway could not have been more slick than if someone had dumped thousands of gallons of grease all over the pavement. My first sight of that piece of highway were the emergency lights of police, ambulances, firetrucks, wreckers and more law-enforcement vehicles than I’d ever seen before in one spot. Cars were off both sides of the highway. Some down in ditches, others upside down, on their sides, a tractor trailer rig was off into a small creek, all of the distruction caused by a small box turtle that rarely grew more than 6-7″ across. Thousands of box turtles. Maybe tens of thousands of dead, mashed box turtles.
I was stopped just short of the scene for a half-hour or so while wreckers pulled cars, trucks and tractors from the ditches and creeks along the highway. Finally, a path was cleared and a few cars were allowed through. A Highway Patrolman told me as he waved me forward, “No faster than 5 miles-per-hour!”
It was a wise order.
I slowly drove through and around the wrecked cars and trucks. As I did, I drove over the remains of the box turtles, some still alive or only slightly injured but unable to move.
I’m glad it was only a “Crunch!” A pick-up ahead of me ran over an intact turtle. It went, “Pop!”
I don’t think I drove over any living turtle. I think.
Since that day, I can’t drive through that mile or so of highway without remembering, “Crunch! Crunch!”