Flora The Ornate Box Turtle

Kansas Ornate Box Turtle

Last weekend we “rescued” a turtle from the middle of the highway on our way back to Wichita from St. Louis and named him “Dusty.”  Dusty turned out to be a girl so now she’s “Flora.”  Flora turned out to be an “Ornate Box Turtle” which is the State Reptile of Kansas so we needed to figure out what to do.  At first we made Flora a nice box with water and food but she seemed miserable so we moved her to a 6′ x 6′ enclosure under the playground where she could walk around and explore.  She did 2 things:

  1. Try and escape from the NE corner all day
  2. Dig and hide under the SW corner all night

She almost dug her way out (I was not prepared for how well she digs) so we moved her into a smaller enclosure where we could control the temperature and conditions better without worrying about her getting out.  She has dirt to dig in, grass to hide under, water to drink and bathe in, sun, shade, bugs, and food.  Everything is fertilizer-free so she is in good spirits other than the stress of being in captivity…which she will not need to stress out about much longer.

Flora is going home.

20140603_195100This morning she chowed down on a hunk of watermelon, took a bath, then dug a hole and hid in the dirt.  The kids could care less that there’s a turtle in the back yard because they can’t hold it and play with it.  That’s how turtles die.  Kate and I are checking on her throughout the day and making sure she is as happy as can be in her enclosure…as happy as one can be in an enclosure.  I felt responsible to bring her home because she was in the middle of the highway and going to die.  My fear of taking her back is that she’ll just walk out into the highway again and get killed…so is she better off living with us?  No.  I have come to the conclusion the answer is “no.”  Everything in this world has a purpose and Flora’s isn’t to hide in my backyard and eat watermelon.  She may live  a longer life in my yard then she would near the highway, but would it be happier?  If you were going to die would you want to be trapped in someone’s yard, or would you rather be home…free…living on your own terms.  I’d want to be home.  So this weekend we’re driving back to Toronto, KS to set Flora free where we found her…though we’ll place her off the highway in hopes she’ll steer clear of it for a while.  I know the exact spot where we found her on highway 54 by the river and that’s where we’ll put her.  Her home.

Flora's Home
Flora’s Home

For the boys, we’re taking a page from Kate’s parent’s book and telling them Flora has had a nice week visiting us be she needs to go home to her mommy and daddy to be with her family who misses her.  For me, I’m 65% positive she’ll die from getting squashed by a truck…but 35% says she’ll live longer out there where she belongs vs. with us where she doesn’t.  Who knows, if she lives long enough she could get big enough that cars would see her coming from far away.  Ornate Box Turtles can live 50 years…some say up to 100 if left alone in the wild.  I want to give Flora that chance, and if she gets splatted by a truck tomorrow…at least she’ll die doing what she loves…sun-bathing on highway 54.  Much better way to go than dying of stress in a small enclosure in suburbia.  As someone who suffers from anxiety and often contemplates the end this brings great comfort to me as I hope when its my time to go I’m staring at the waves on Lake George, or listening to the sound of Kansas wheat in the wind, or the sound of my wife’s voice telling me about her day.

"Get me out of here and take me home!"
“Get me out of here and take me home!”

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2 thoughts on “Flora The Ornate Box Turtle

  1. Great post, Ryan, and it is an example of a macro philosophical issue: you laid out the contradictory nature of Freedom v. Security and the limits to each in order to have both, neither to be enjoyed perfectly or absolutely, by choice, one of life’s dilemmas! Either way, you’ve tried and succeeded at doing the right thing!

  2. Love the story as well as the decision (even though I would have had a hard time making it)! Fun memories for sure!!

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