Smack talk aside, turtle champion once again

I never knew turtle racing could be some much fun. We entered our Beaverton championship turtle in my family reunion turtle race last weekend. Amidst all kinds of sibling rivalry, our turtle came through in fine fashion.

Going in to the race, I didn’t expect much competition. Midway through last week I knew of only one other turtle. My sister, Marcia and her family had found an odd looking box turtle, but weren’t all that enthused with its speed, or lack thereof. Two days later, the turtle laid eggs.

Knowing that only a few turtles had entered the race, my brother Jim bought his grandkids three turtles. Cha-ging he was hoping for a winner, because the turtles had cost nearly $30 apiece. One of the turtles, named Speedy was declared the odds-on favorite.

That declaration didn’t bother me at all. We had a proven champion, and any smack my siblings wanted to talk, would be discarded quickly. With only four turtles in the race- one having just given birth, I felt safe.

That is until Friday. Friday was the day of the family canoe outing. Family members decided paddles and canoes were not a necessity. Instead they waded down the Chippewa River, catching two dozen turtles in the process.

Now everyone was in the race- nearly twenty turtles. Our turtle’s chances were greatly diminished. These turtles were lifted directly out of the river and ready to run. Our turtle had been held in captivity for 3 months.

We had found our turtle along the side of the road in Houghton Lake. Knowing we had the family turtle race three months down the road, we kept the turtle in a plastic container. Along came the Beaverton races- a big deal in that town and a tradition for nearly 25 years. Friends coaxed us to enter that race. We did, and won handily against 70 other turtles of all shapes and sizes.

I figured the captivity would slow our turtle. I fed it nothing for two days before the race. I was rude to the turtle- letting the sun beat down on it, refusing to change the turtle’s water and generally ignoring the champion.

Apparently, my methods worked. In the first heat, our champion did his normal- immediately racing to the finish line in 10 seconds. No other turtle came close. In the second heat, our turtle was challenged for the first time. My sister, Sandy had captured a small turtle. By small, I mean maybe two inches in diameter. The turtle was fast, once it decided to move. For the first time, our turtle hesitated at about two feet from the finish line. When he saw Sandy’s turtle approaching, he again took off, but it was proclaimed a dead heat.

Now I was concerned. My sister, who had been talking trash through the entire competition, with the smallest turtle imaginable, might beat us in a run-off. That was unspeakable. I had a few words with my champion, before setting him down in the start circle. One, two, three go, and our turtle went faster than I’d ever seen him go. He was to the finish line in a split second, while Sandy’s turtle took her time, finishing 5 seconds later.

The champion was crowned champion once more. That lonely turtle we had captured along the side of the road in Houghton Lake, had proven once again, he was the fastest amongst all turtles.

It was time to retire the big guy. He had been held in captivity far too long. After the race, I gave him a kiss on the shell, set him down, and let him run towards the lake. He didn’t hesitate, doing his usual sprint and plopping in the lake, never to be seen again.

This old guy, shed a tear or two. Our turtle had provided so much entertainment. I really hated to see him go.