Forward-Facing Car Seats and the Ornate Box Turtle Refugee

Max & Dodge Back Seat
Facing Forward

This weekend my wife Kate and I loaded the kids into the back seat of the car and drove to St. Louis and back for a wedding.  We knew it was going to be rough since its about an 8 hour drive from Wichita and Dodge (1) isn’t a fan of being stuck in a car seat too long.  Max (3) is a road warrior and just watches the world go by outside his window, plays nicely, naps, and is a delight.  Dodge, to my surprise, traveled VERY well on this trip and I think Max’s presence is rubbing off on him.  However, the main reason Dodge did as well as he did is because this was his first ever experience riding in a forward-facing car seat…and wow did he love it!

Stretching Out
Stretching Out

His feet have been dangling out of his rear-facing car seat for weeks and my back seat is covered with his foot prints from kicking the backrest.  He was ready so we figured this would be a great time to test it out.  I strapped him in and took him for a spin around the block first to see how he reacted.  I heard squeaks from the back seat that at first I thought were cries, then I looked back and saw what was going on…uncontrollable glee and laughter.  Apparently facing forward in the car is the coolest thing since ice cream.  We added Max to his regular seat and the two of them played, looked out the window, and were happy little boys.  For us it was so much easier handing back food, toys, books, etc. throughout the trip and Dodge was content to sit for longer periods of time because he could see where he was going.

Max's Horse Ride
Max’s Horse Ride

We drove 8 hours on Friday with 1 major stop, getting us in at 2 AM.  Dodge slept in the car while Max looked out the window and pretended to be Lightning McQueen from the movie Cars searching for Mack along the interstate.  They partied hard at the wedding where Max rode a horse danced for about 2 hours straight and worked up a kid-sweat so stank-a-bunch we had to bathe both boys when we got back to the hotel that night.  Sunday we made our way back west and stopped off at our usual location: Ozarkland just off of I-70.  It is our regular stop.  We snag lunch at the McDonald’s next door which has a playground so the kids can burn off some energy, then we go to Ozarkland where Max picks out a small toy to play with on the drive home, and we usually get home around 4 PM with a stop for gas around Olathe, KS.  This time Dodge picked out a toy too and Kate and I decided it was too nice of a day to not go the scenic route…so we pointed the car south towards Jefferson City and then headed towards Lake of the Ozarks.  Somewhere along the route I did the math and realized I spent 18 hours driving, 18 hours awake, and 12 hours sleeping.  The 50/50 ratio of sleep to awake time was intense but at least I got to take the scenic route.


Growing up playing in Lake George nestled at the feet of the Adirondack Mountains…I’m never impressed by Lake of the Ozarks which is a dammed up river filled with mud, debris, and lots of chop.  However, the surrounding terrain of the Ozarks as you head west on 54 has amazing overlooks and moments where you forget you are in the Midwest.  It is a beautiful drive.  Max passed out somewhere around Macks Creek and Dodge followed suit around El Dorado Springs.  Kate and I bumbled along pointing out wildlife, enjoying the curves in the road, and counting the amount of armadillo road-kill along the route.  I never knew there were so many armadillos in Missouri.  We saw llamas, reindeer, deer, hawks, turkey buzzards, an eagle, kites, cattle, horses, sheep, chickens, rainbows and all the fun stuff that city kids miss out on.  The boys woke up and we pointed things out to them as we passed.  We stopped off in Iola, KS for root beer floats at the A&W and one last restroom stop before the home stretch to Wichita.  Then it began…

The astounding amount of Missouri armadillo death along 54 between Jefferson City and Nevada was rapidly eclipsed by Kansas’ squashed turtle death along 54 between Iola and El Dorado.  I’d swerve the car to avoid these little guys and my boys would ask why I was swerving.  We told them there were turtles in the road and this confused them greatly.  Then I decided to make Kate put her money where her mouth was.  She constantly talks about her family’s policy growing up that any found reptile or small animal could live in the bathtub for 1 night and then be set free.  I said we should rescue a turtle.  Kate…not a fan.  I reminded her of the bathtub.  She pointed out the turtle she wanted to save.  We picked him up from the center of the road on 54 just north of Toronto, KS.  The boys named him “Dusty” from their favorite movie, Planes.  Dusty had been scuffed by a car at some point but was not squished or missing any appendages.  I gently made a quiet home for him in a box and we brought him home.

Front Yard Ducks
Ducks in the front yard greeting us home.

Upon arriving home I found I was the only person on the block who did not mow my lawn over the weekend…and my lawn was now inhabited by ducks.  Max asked if we could keep the ducks too and I told him if he could catch one we could.  He chased…they flew…I laughed.  Then I looked up Dusty to see what I could find out about him.  From what I can tell he is probably a she based on the coloration of her eyes.  She’s an “Ornate Box Turtle” which is Kansas’ State Reptile.  They live about 50 years though some live to be about 100.  While popular in pet stores because born in captivity, wild box turtles may not adjust well if removed from their micro habitat which they may search for the rest of their life.  My heart sank reading this.  Online there are websites dedicated to reasons why NOT to take home wild box turtles and websites dedicated to HOW to care for wild box turtles and how they can make for a great pet.  As I type this I am sure those who believe in NOT keeping wild box turtles will be commenting on this.  It is also illegal to sell or transport box turtles out of Kansas.  In some instances it is illegal to keep them.  Here is what I found:

“Because of the overall threats to these fascinating animals, there are restrictions on their use. Neither of the Kansas box turtle species may be bought or sold in Kansas or be transported out of the state for sale (K.S.A. 32-1002 and K.S.A. 32-1005). Kansas regulations (K.A.R. 115-20-20) do permit the legal keeping of up to five individuals of each of these species providing the keeper has a valid hunting license or is exempt from needing one. Therefore, any person under 16 years of age or older than 65 may legally keep up to five each under their own possession.”

Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism

Since I have a valid Kansas hunting license, only have 1 box turtle, and have no intention of transporting or selling this turtle I’m not breaking the law.  Here is our current plan for Dusty:

  1. We brought her home so we’re going to see how she does for a day or so
  2. She ate a bunch of lettuce, ate a slug, and drank some water last night
  3. We are going to create a real habitat for her in the back yard this week

If he/she does well and seems content (she’s still small/young) we will consider keeping her.  If she does not do well or seems disoriented I know exactly which mile marker I was at when I picked her up and we’ll make a day trip adventure with the kids to take Dusty home next weekend.  I’d personally like to keep her.  I don’t want the kids over handling her or scaring her but I like the idea of them learning to observe her.  That said, if she’s not going to do better in captivity I’ll return her home.  The conundrum for me is that returning her home is probably the right thing to do…but 5 more minutes on that road and she would have been squished.  If we put her back who’s to say she won’t just get squished a few days later?  So if she can be happy with us…isn’t that better than being squished?  We shall see.  Till then, Dusty is on vacation in the back yard and the first reptile we’ve brought home.  What do you think, should Dusty stay with us or should we make a 3 hour day trip to return her home?

Click HERE to find out what happened next.

"Dusty" the Kansas Ornate Box Turtle
“Dusty,” the gender confused Kansas Ornate Box Turtle

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2 thoughts on “Forward-Facing Car Seats and the Ornate Box Turtle Refugee

  1. Obligatory Car Seat Technician/Nerd Post: It is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatricians to keep your child rear-facing until 2. This recommendation is in place due to a child’s bodily/internal development prior to that age. A 1 year old’s body is still too vulnerable to be forward-facing in a collision. It looks like you’ve selected a Graco All-In One seat. This seat allows you to put Dodge rear-facing with much more room than his infant seat would have given him. I encourage you to give it a try. Ultimately, it is one of those tough decisions parents have to make. Us CPSTs are here to make sure parents are well informed to make the decision that is best for their family! Love you guys!

    1. Yes, you are a nerd Heather…and Kate & I love you. I know 2 is the recommended age and Dodge is only 15 months, I know the Graco faces both directions, and I know these facts from researching it and discussing it with you. However, experience trumps data. Crank out 2 kids and you’ll find tons of experience to go with this data and see parenting is based on intuition and circumstance with data as a foundation. The rear-facing car seat just wasn’t working for Dodge and it was obvious he wanted/needed to face the other direction. Infant safety seats didn’t even exist until the 60’s and when I was a kid we just sat in the back seat with a seat belt (sometimes). There are no laws about car seats in boats and it is optional on planes…because more people have cars then they do boats and plane tickets. You should check out Steven D. Levitt’s (Freakonomics) data on car seats and their ineffectiveness. Its reminds me of the bit about “The Land” and government approved playgrounds. We in the US where we expect solutions to incurable outcomes and someone to be responsible when things go wrong. Sometimes…shit just happens.

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