Mr. Turtle: A new spin on an old story

Jeremy Wade Shockley | The Southern Ute Drum


Of my earliest memories, the sound of the Pine River remains embedded in my soul.  Overlooking the valley I would hear a constant sound of water washing over the river doughnuts. The roar of the river became louder in spring and could be heard throughout the day and night. Only, in the evening when the winds are calm, does the volume become loudest and a firefly illuminates a path in the darkness.

I can remember the old storyteller, who would affirm his belief of a time when the animals could speak with humans and by the river lived a community of the living. When you are little you can see a path beneath the bush that grownups cannot see. I was able to scoot through the underbrush and I realized that I was on a well-traveled path.

Soon I emerged into a clearing of wildflowers and the path snaking into the riverbank. Not far from the river was a tidy home built into a hollowed tree trunk.  This particular home was the permanent residence of Mr. and Mrs. Turtle.

They lived a simple life, and Mrs. Turtle busied herself with daily chores. Now, Mr. Turtle, was a horse of a different color, he was proud of himself for knowing everyone else’s business. A prolific reader and articulate speaker, who could cite great works of literature, or annoy, or bore you into submission. Conversations were very dry and usually about all his accomplishments. Mr. Turtle could talk for hours on end and didn’t have many friends.

One morning after breakfast, Mr. Turtle decided to take a morning stroll. Ever slow but sure of each step, he followed a path beneath the foliage that ran along the Pine River. “What fantastic luck” he said to himself, as he stooped to examine a delicious worm crossing his path.

Suddenly, he heard two small birds excitedly chirping of a general meeting. “What’s this you’re babbling about some meeting of great minds.” interrupted Mr. Turtle. He delighted in opposing your very own comments and played devil’s advocate deliberately. One had to endure his long-winded explanations and wish he would get to the point. He loved attention and was determined to find this meeting.

In his thinking, the prospect of sharing the worm was never going to happen. However, he wanted to satisfy his curiosity and his little brain was already scheming of getting both. “Let me offer a proposal for information,” said Mr. Turtle.

The little birds looked on quietly and would remember how Mr. Turtle had fooled them before. “Now in exchange for knowledge I will share a most delicious treat,” said Mr. Turtle who was watching for a reaction. The two little birds were not buying any of it. It didn’t help when the worm was squirming under foot. The poor worm was trying to get away and was tickling Mr. Turtle, this put a sly smile on his face. “You’re trying to pull a fast one, you don’t have any treats” said one of the birds.

“Of course, I do, now let me show you both” and Mr. Turtle lifted his foot. There was indeed a juicy worm and both birds began singing like canaries. With much fanfare and anticipation of receiving a tasty morsel, information was given up. “Now, how do I get rid of these pesky birds,” thought Mr. Turtle. There was a rustling in the tall grass and Mr. Turtle yelled to the birds to fly away or be eaten by feral cat. The two little birds quickly vanished and leaving Mr. Turtle to retreat into his shell.

Although, being quite startled himself, he managed to swallow the worm before he hid. He was hoping for a good outcome and his wish was granted. There was no feral cat, but Mrs. Turtle who was looking for her glasses. “My dear, your eyeglasses are on your head,” said Mr. Turtle. She felt around and readjusted them, “silly me,” she said.

Mrs. Turtle gathered her husband and together went home for the night. Mr. Turtle was up early the next day and told his wife, June, that he was attending a meeting that day. “Oh, that’s nice, what kind of meeting?” she asked. “Those two birds told me that a meeting of great minds are to convene at Cottonwood Circle,” he said, “I’ll be late if I don’t hurry, bye-bye.” As Mr. Turtle rushed out the front door, June, said to herself, “meeting of great minds, yea right, say aren’t they all bird brains.”

As you know turtles are not sprinters however. Mr. Turtle, with the idea that a huge crowd will be in attendance, decided that he needed to shift out of granny gear and kick in first gear, and he sped off to Cottonwood Circle. He was so determined to be there ahead of time, that he ran past Joe Beaver who was constructing an add on to his home.

Mr. Turtle was compelled to always give advice when nobody wanted it. Constructive criticism was good, however Mr. Turtle would take it to new level. Often he would impose his comments and expertise of construction engineering to Joe Beaver, who told him one day, “Well, you live in a hollowed out log and your knowledge comes from the Time Life Home Repair edition.”

“Here let me feel your hands, say those are mighty soft hands you have.” said Joe Beaver. “I have to use a hydra-defoliant to keep my skin soft and supple,” said Mr. Turtle. “I detest manual labor and especially playing in mud.” Mr. Turtle remembered his past confrontation with Joe Beaver and was compelled to give him a piece of his mind as he flashed by the construction site. This was the most important meeting he had ever attended and he was determined to make a good show.

Mr. Turtle, was thinking and driving, now let me see, I know where the meeting will be and those two birds said something about the Great Council of Birds. “With the Great Council of Birds, it was a privilege to be invited to such a gathering and no doubt a huge audience will be there. I wonder if I will get top billing, after all I am a much bigger star than those pilgrims. Yes, I can see it now, the reviews, the photo-ops, maybe a movie, surly a short story. I’ll be famous and all the world would bow to the privilege and realize that I am the greatest orator ever heard.” A little sparkle came into his eye as he conceived his new role. My presentation, this presentation, what presentation, I don’t know what the subject matter will be, those bird brains didn’t inform me of the main topic or why the meeting was being held in the first place and why didn’t I receive a proper invite?

You know you have achieved greatness by looking at the pictures in Life Magazine and making up your own stories. Who care’s if it is truthful or not, they all want to be entertained. Hey, I can submit that to my resume, the greatest orator and entertainer of the year. Thinking and traveling at super turtle speed was not his best virtues. “Watch out Mr. Turtle, you’re going to crash,” yelled one of the little birds.



The two little birds that he tricked earlier were standing by the entrance to Cottonwood Circle, they were more concerned about Mr. Turtle’s safety, despite their anger. A group of the little birds came to his rescue and began to dust him off by using their wings. A couple of feathers broke off in doing so and of course Mr. Turtle noticed. They were all about to enter Cottonwood Circle when they saw security standing there. “Okay, let’s huddle and bird brain storm,” “how are we going to get by Jesus the great blue heron,” chattered all of the little birds.

“Yeah, Mr. Turtle is a reptile after all,” said one of the little birds. All the while the roar of the crows, the chattering of songbirds, and a spotlight in the center stage was where he belonged. I have to get in there and baffle them with scientific facts or dazzle them with my rendition of the Archie’s gang. I know my favorite subjects are politics and the law. “How to get in there, let me see,” he thought, “okay, I will need a small donation from each of you,” and of course, they suspected that he was up to no good. “What do you what,” said the little birds.

“Not much maybe two feathers each,” said Mr. Turtle. The little birds agreed as long as he would be quite and they asked a passing snail to slime him good. Good thinking, an adhesive, now stick the feathers on. “How are you going to pass yourself as a bird,” asked one of little the birds. “ “Nonsense, my superior intellect will dominate any resistance. After all, you birds are descended from reptiles,” replied Mr. Turtle. The poor little birds were confused and tipped their head to one side. “Hey, Mr. Intellect, birds walk on two feet and good luck getting passed Jesus the Great.”

The great blue heron was an excellent fisherman and would not pass up a frog or little turtle as a snack. Either way you look at it, Mr. Turtle, was either the biggest fool or the bravest little turtle to meet his doom. However, the applause and roar of the audience was all he could stand. He had to be in the spotlight at center stage. Without any thought of being eaten, Mr. Turtle, began his final curtain call with destiny and fame. “Odale homes, you got a ticket,” said Jesus.“What ticket, why, I’m one of the entertainers and I believe I’m up next.” The great heron stood there, looking down at Mr. Turtle and said, “okay, okay mon, don’t get your feathers ruffled. Let me check the program, mmm, COMEDIAN, the great heron again looked suspiciously at the odd looking little bird and said “break a leg, mon.”

At last the golden opportunity and my road to the greatest achievement any turtle could have. Jesus opened the door and said, “professor, hey ese, some traveling music,”

The theater was dark and the spotlight was on Mr. Turtle. The volume pickup to the theme music of 2001: A Space Odyssey. The strangely feathered Mr. Turtle gathered his wits, cleared his throat and began by saying. “First of all let me congratulate your choice of entertainment, I wish to bestow upon you some cultural and highly amusing interpretation of the Rules and Policies of Ethical Procedures.”

All the birds in the great council were bewildered and according to the program, a comedy routine was to occur. What is going on here, the comedian was terrible and some were falling asleep, with hecklers in the mix. Mr. Turtle knew he was losing the crowd. One by one, and two by two, the great council of birds began to fly off. Soon, flocks of birds ascended into the clouds.

“Well, better luck next time,” said the same two little birds, “Where did they all fly off to” asked Mr. Turtle.

“Why, the great council of birds has reconvened in the clouds” “I must get there by all cost and peril, I require your assistance once again,” said Mr. Turtle. “Well, we shouldn’t help you, but after that performance, we think you deserve another chance,” said the little birds. “However, you are to heavy for us to carry, we will ask our foster kids to deliver you there” “Okay, okay as long as I get there and I shall bare all of my soul in this performance.” “These are your foster kids? They look different” said Mr. Turtle. “They are cuckoo birds, somehow they ended up in our nest and we raised them,” said the little birds. “Now boys would you carry this lost soul to the great council of birds, as they have moved their conference to the clouds.” “Okay papa but he looks funny,” said the cuckoo bird brother. “Looks aren’t everything, now be off with you all,” said the little bird. “Let me give you a piece of advice Mr. Turtle, don’t look down and happy flying!”

Before you could say buckle your seat belt, Mr. Turtle found himself in the clouds. As usual Mr. Turtle was analyzing his future and fantasizing about what if. The cuckoo brothers placed Mr. Turtle gently on the stage, they told him to let his eyes get adjusted. After a few moments Mr. Turtle was quite surprised at the spectacular amphitheater in the clouds. His voice would carry every syllable in his oral repertoire. He tested audio levels by his rendition of a super bubble favorite, “Sugar, Sugar.” He was ready and he thought to himself, “I have finally reached the apex of my studies and will deliver a truly magnificent magical illusion.” The curtains were about to be opened, the cuckoo brothers said, “knock ‘em dead strange bird” “Hey, where are you guys going” said Mr. Turtle. “Papa didn’t say a round trip” and with that they flew like a BB.”

“That’s just great, abandoned at the scene but the show must go on,” Mr. Turtle told himself. A hush came over the audience as the curtain opened and it started with one clap, then a few, and then the whole place erupted. The great council of birds had never seen a new species of bird like this ever and this was significant. The spotlight was so intense and the slime with feathers began to slide off his shell. There stood Mr. Turtle in all his glory. He said to himself, “take a few deep breaths old man!”

Let me tell you my friends, when the confident Mr. Turtle starts to talk to himself, he’s in trouble. He felt naked to the world and exposed a fraudulent side of his inner self. Of all places, and in the greatest venue imaginable. The great council of birds reacted with utter disgust and shock, there stood the arrogant, boorish and self centered, Mr. Turtle. In a blink of an eye the entire place stampeded and feathers were flying, it resembled a chicken house being raided. Soon, Mr. Turtle was alone, what was he to do and now more than ever, he realized that he had himself to blame. He didn’t have any friends to help him, and he was getting hungry. Walking to edge of the cloud he peered over and could see the land below. What luck the wind had blew the cloud closer to the ground. As Mr. Turtle was pondering his fate and funeral, he saw Mrs. Turtle working in her garden.

“Hey June it’s me, June look up” yelled Mr. Turtle, Mrs. Turtle was startled beyond imagination. She looked around, she didn’t see her hubby, but could hear him. “June, I’m up here, in the clouds,” yelled Mr. Turtle.

Goodness, has my dear sweet husband entered the spirit world, thought Mrs. Turtle. Mr. Turtle yelled, “I know what you’re thinking, but June honey, I’m truly in the clouds.” Mrs. Turtle thought to herself, “June honey, he must be in a pickle.” She gazed upward and focused her glasses and sure enough she could see Mr. Turtle waving. “What in the world have you done this time, you come down here this instant,” scolded Mrs. Turtle. “Don’t be mad honey and can you gather all the pillows in the house?” Mrs. Turtle just shook her head as she went into the house to return with an arm full of dirty laundry. “Okay, can you pile them next to your garden,” he yelled.

As Mrs. Turtle began to look upward, a blur dropped from the cloud. Mr. Turtle miss calculated the drop and landed on his back in Mrs. Turtle’s lettuce patch. The lettuce patch was squashed and Mr. Turtle’s shell was shattered and lay in pieces around him. Oh no, Mr. Turtle’s backside was completely exposed and he was totally embarrassed. He forgot to change his underwear, as his mama would periodically remind him to do so, (you never know).

Mrs. Turtle went to her tool shed and found some piñon pine pitch in a small container. Heating the pitch would make it sticky and then she proceeded to glue Mr. Turtle’s shell back together. “Okay, my dear why don’t you tell me what happen?” asked Mrs. Turtle.

“June, honey it’s a long story,” said Mr. Turtle. His turtle shell would mend and from that time to present, all little turtles would have those cracks on their shells. He was one lucky little turtle.

As I grew older, we would go to Woolworth’s and I would go straight away and see the little birds, I could see that they were talking with the turtles next to them.




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