Printer Friendly Version

Around the Bluhmin’ Town


Judy Bluhm

Have you ever driven your car with only one hand on the steering wheel? Yes, I thought so. But what about driving one-handed while the other hand is holding a desert tortoise? No, probably not. It seems driving one-handed is a pretty common practice (one report claims more men than women drive with one hand on the steering wheel) but holding a turtle whose legs are moving fast and furiously with his head bobbing…not so common.

I was driving along my country lane when I noticed a big rock in the middle of the road. I swerved slightly to avoid it, but then saw in my rear view mirror that the rock was moving! I stopped the car and got out to see a tortoise the size of a small salad plate, walking slowly up the road as if he had a purpose. It was dusk and I worried for his safety. Surely someone would come along and hit him!

Fearing for his demise, I decided I better move our friend to one side of the road, or the other. But then neither place looked “turtle friendly.” Dirt and no vegetation with no other hardbacks in sight, it seemed wrong to place him in the ditches or leave him in harm’s way. So I did the only sensible thing. I grabbed the tortoise with my right hand and held him while I drove with my left up the lane to my house.

When I arrived home, Doug was there to greet me and looked at my little friend I had rescued. He said, “You shouldn’t interfere with wildlife – they know where they are going.” Well, I pointed out I see lots of wildlife smashed in the middle of roadways, so they do not always know where they are going! Then he looked at me and asked, “So what are you planning to do with this turtle?”

Did you know a tortoise can live for 100 years? The little guy I had in my hand was not full grown but could have been middle aged. And then I had to wonder if he had a plan. You know, gazing out from his turtle home or burrow and longing to cross the road and move out on his own. Finally mustering enough courage to “make his move,” he starts the journey to his new life. Maybe it took him years to get the courage to do this. Only to be foiled by a well-meaning human!

Do I take the tortoise back to where I think he should be or where he wanted to go? I asked Doug for an opinion but all he could do was laugh at my predicament. He pointed out that putting him down in our yard so he can walk out to the barn and get stomped on by our horses didn’t seem like a good idea.

Losing light, I kept a hold of the turtle who glared at me indignantly with his legs moving and head still bobbing. I got back in the car and drove down to the spot where I found him and pulled over and parked. Since putting him back in the center of the road where I saw him walking seemed cruel, I had to decide whether he might like the east or west side of the road. A neighbor came by and we chatted about which side of the street looked best.

Crossroads. Never have liked them much. Do we go where we belong or where we think we ought to be? With about five minutes of dusk left, I had to figure it out! My neighbor got on Google  on her cell phone and read that turtles like to burrow, so she thought the east side of the road was best. More dirt there. Then another neighbor on an ATV came along and said he thought the west side had more vegetation and looked more turtle-friendly. Now Doug walked up and said we should take him down by the State Trust Land because there are trees, vegetation, and dirt mounds there. A tortoise heaven!

In other words, we had no idea what we were doing. Which is, of course, what happens when well-meaning people try to help. So I placed my little guy very close to where I found him (but not in the middle of the road) along the side of a ditch and he paused, then quickly scurried off into a thicket. Free of the terrifying interference of a bunch of humans.

Dear Readers, if you see a dinner plate moving in the road, slow down. No, you are not hallucinating. You are just experiencing another Arizona wonder.

Judy Bluhm is a writer and a local realtor. Have a story or a comment? Email Judy at