Saturday, September 12, 2015

Singleton tells of the motorcycle-riding turtle's trip to 'Nancy Mountain'

(For decades, local historian and paranormal investigator George “Buster” Singleton published a weekly newspaper column called “Somewhere in Time.” The column below, which was titled “Not all turtles get rides on motorcycles” was originally published in the Sept. 6, 1990  edition of The Monroe Journal in Monroeville, Ala.)

A few days back, I headed up toward one of my favorite places of relaxation. The early morning breezes were refreshing as I sped along on my motorcycle.

I was doing what I do best; I was starting my complete day of doing nothing but wandering. My spouse wasn’t going to be home for lunch, so I got together a few things and hit the road.

As I sped along up Highway 41, toward the Franklin area, I spotted a large round object up the road ahead of me. As I drew closer, I saw that the round object was a quite large, hard-shell turtle. How this turtle had managed to survive there in the middle of the highway, I’ll never know.

Each time a truck or automobile came by, the turtle would draw its head inside its shell; it was rather slowly making its way across the wide roadway. I knew that it would be just a matter of time before someone came along and decided to run over this old, slow-moving warrior.

I stopped my motorcycle and got off. I was going to pick the turtle up and place it in the ditch across the road, where I thought it was headed. As I picked up the turtle, it drew its head once again inside its shell.

“What the heck,” I thought. “I’ll just carry this old gentleman with me for a while. I know that he has never ridden a motorcycle, and this will give the old turtle a chance to see some of the countryside.”

I placed the turtle on the fuel tank in front of me. I positioned its head toward the handlebars just in case he decided to bite a slice out of my leg with his stout jaws. My legs kept the turtle from falling off as we sped up the road toward Franklin. The noise and perhaps the motion of the motorcycle helped me to haul the old warrior. As the motorcycle began to move, the old fellow pulled his head once again inside his shell.

As we rode along, I could feel the turtle’s feet bracing against my legs. I could feel the tension in the legs; I wondered what thoughts, if any, were going through the mind of the old turtle.

As we sped northward, several people passing us almost fell out of their automobiles, looking to see what object I was holding before me on the fuel tank of the motorcycle. I turned left after passing the store in Franklin, deciding to carry my new friend to my favorite spot atop Nancy Mountain. Here, if all went well, I would share some of my lunch with the turtle.

I stopped the motorcycle in front of the pavilion and lifted the turtle off the fuel tank. I placed my friend on the concrete floor, deciding to see just what was going to take place after his motorcycle ride. I waited for several minutes before I saw a large, ugly head slowly moving out from under the shell. I had placed some cracker crumbs in front of the shell before the head came out. I was going to see if he would eat the crumbs or just crawl off.

Three minutes passed, and nothing happened. I placed a portion of a tasty sardine there beside the cracker crumbs. I noticed movement as the turtle slowly eased its way toward the sardine. The lower jaw of the turtle moved, and before I realized it, a portion of the sardine disappeared. Then the remaining portion disappeared also.

I continued to watch to see if the turtle was going to eat the cracker crumbs. Slowly the head moved this way and that; it seemed to be looking for more sardines. Then I saw a cracker crumb picked up by the turtle; then another. The old fellow was fast losing his manners. It seemed that he was ready now to eat anything.

Twice more I placed chunks of sardine and crackers on the concrete, each time placing them farther away from the turtle than before. Each time the turtle sought out the food and ate every mouthful. I think that if I had kept feeding the old rascal, he would have gotten on my motorcycle by himself if he had thought food was there.

For a time, I played with the turtle. I placed some salted peanuts on the floor before him. He seemed disappointed that the peanuts weren’t saltines or crackers. I then placed several small pebbles in front of him. This time he totally ignored the pebbles, as if saying, “I’m not that dumb.” I tried to fool him with a couple of small leaves; these, too, he ignored.

I then carried him over to the edge of the floor. I was going to see if he would crawl off the side. The ground was about five inches below the surface of the floor. He would not take the chance. I suppose he thought he might flip over and land on his back; he would not chance it. I picked him up and carried him to the far side of the pavilion where the floor was almost level with the ground. He calmly crawled off the concrete and down to the leaves and grass. I guessed that he was saying to himself that this was no step for a stepper.

The old turtle didn’t seem eager to depart from my company, but the evening had passed rather quickly and I had to be getting toward home. I again picked up the old fellow and carried him deep into the thick underbrush. A final pat on the shell and I placed him under a heavy brush top. He was just another turtle, but I’ll bet my best pair of britches that he was the only hard-shelled turtle in Monroe County to ever ride a motorcycle.

(Singleton, the author of the 1991 book “Of Foxfire and Phantom Soldiers,” passed away at the age of 79 on July 19, 2007. A longtime resident of Monroeville, he was born on Dec. 14, 1927 in Marengo County and served as the administrator of the Monroeville National Guard unit from 1964 to 1987. He is buried in Pineville Cemetery in Monroeville. The column above and all of Singleton’s other columns are available to the public through the microfilm records at the Monroe County Public Library in Monroeville. Singleton’s columns are presented here each week for research and scholarship purposes and as part of an effort to keep his work and memory alive.)

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