The sun was shining upon the soft white sand along the lazy river bed. Trees were showing signs of new growth in the deep-south and people were coming out of their homes to enjoy the warm days just after the winter months had passed. Another year had begun for wildlife as well as the children who kept the river banks busy. A female tortoise used her sharp claws to dig deep into the sand preparing a place to lay her eggs. She had mated with two tortoises and now was ready to deposit the eggs and be on her way. She had much to do and once the eggs were covered in the sand she could continue on her journey.
She waited until it was safe and evening had come. She slowly dug her nesting burrow and deposited all of her eggs. She gently used her sharp claws to cover her clutch with sand, soil and leaves. She had given her gift of life to the eggs. She had not taken the time to count them but she normally would lay about ten to twenty eggs each time she mated. As all female tortoises she left the eggs unattended and it was up to mother-nature to do her part and see that they hatched. Hatching took about three to four months and she would now go and feed on the fresh greens to renew her strength. She would never know how many eggs hatched or if they were male or female hatchlings. She did know that all of the hatchlings would be born in an embryonic egg sac and it would supply them with food until they hatched from the eggs shell. She also remembered how she had escaped from the eggs shell when she was born. She had a very special tooth called an egg tooth she used to crack through the shell as did all her brothers and sisters. She remembered well the seven days it took her to get enough strength to find food for herself and all of her hatchlings would have to do the same. Slowly she left the buried eggs and made her way into the deep dark forest.
Days passed and the sun continued to shine warming the earth. The warmth of the earth gave life to the tiny tortoises inside the shells.
“Gosh it is so cramped in here. I’m tired of lying in here all the time. I think I will crash through this shell and see what is outside.” A tiny voice spoke inside the shell.
Using his special tooth Timothy tapped on the shell until it broke into pieces. “Wow! I’ve got to dig my way up out of here.” He said seeing he was still trapped underneath the dirt and sand. Using his tiny claws he pushed his way up through the earth and into the sunlight. “Gosh it is very bright out here!” He exclaimed as his tiny eyes beheld the solar beams of light. He stretched his legs and turned his neck from side to side.
“This is far better than that little shell.” He mumbled to himself. Hearing noises around him he turned to see what was happening. It was all of his sisters and brothers coming out of their shells as well.
“Gee! This is pandemonium on its best day.” He smirked watching all the little hatchlings tumble this way and that way. “Better be careful because your legs are not good and strong yet.” He cautioned. “Maybe we can move into the weeds and rest for a bit. Then we can look for some food.” He suggested hoping at least a few of them would take his suggestion.
The tall grass wiggled as the hatchlings made their way from the sand into a better and safer place.
“Boy I am as weak and I can be. I need some food and then a long nap. Does anyone want to help me to find something to eat?” He called.
“Well I guess not.” He muttered softly as she watched everyone run in all directions. “Ok you are all on your own. I’m going to look for food.” He said sharply rather perturbed at the lack of response. “You can just go on but don’t blame me for your bad choices.” He watched as his sisters and brothers all went in different directions.
“Hum! I think my sisters are bigger than I am but I have a longer neck!” He said with a sigh. “They all have such nice shells and so colorful. I’d like to know what mine looks like. I should have asked someone but they were in such a tiff to get going. Oh well I will ask someone later. I hope my shell is not an ugly color!” He snapped.
It was the dawning of a new day for all the hatchlings. It was a new life for Timothy and he was about to see what was in store for him in this big wide world.
“I think I will feed on some of these leafy greens and perhaps a few flowers. Maybe I can find some fruits later when I get more energy.” He said as he nibbled on several yellow flowers. “What a beautiful day to be alive. I have all the time in the world and I plan to take advantage of each day. No more egg-shells for me. I’m free at last!” He mumbled with his mouth full of blossoming petals.
Timothy slept and ate for days walking slowly each day. He was in no hurry and his legs grew stronger. His eyes became clearer each day and his sense of smell was so inviting. He followed his nose for days just eating and resting. “I’m a young tortoise on the move and this wide world is my home. I would like to have someone to talk with though. Oh well I’ll just take a nap. Perhaps I will find someone later on.” His eyes rolled back in his head and he tucked in his head. “This old shell is not such a bad thing after all. It does keep the sun out of my eyes and the rain off my head!”
Wild grasses and worms became Timothy’s diet. He grew day by day as he wandered along alone.
Weeks turned into months and Timothy was very lonely. He was stronger and his shell had hardened well.
Then it happened! He heard a voice in the distance. Poking out his head he looked about to see where the voice was coming from.
“Hello! My name is Cybelle and I’m so happy to finally meet someone.” She said as she moved closer. “I’ve been hoping to meet another tortoise. I’ve been walking for days and my feet are so sore. I do wish there was some water close by!” She exclaimed as she waddled towards Timothy. “What’s your name?” She asked.
“Oh! Ah! My name is… Oh my name is…… Ah Timothy!…. Yes! That’s it! I’m Timothy the tortoise.” He stuttered clearing his throat nervously. “It is nice to see you. My brothers and sisters left shortly after we hatched and I’ve been going it alone. It does get rather lonesome after a while doesn’t it?” He smiled sheepishly.
“Yes it does get lonely. You have such a beautiful shell. I don’t think I have seen one quite so colorful. I just love the red trim on your top. It just looks so manly! I’ve seen mine in the reflection of the water and it is greener than anything else. I do have a nice yellow underside though.” She said softly admiring the nice red trim around Timothy’s shell. “Red and black go well together. Do you have a yellow underside?” She asked curiously.
“Well I don’t know how nice it is. I don’t really think about colors and such.” He replied knowing very well he was not being honest with her. He really was interested in knowing how his shell looked and now he knew.
“There is a stream just back a ways if you’d like to cool your feet.” He asked quite anxiously remembering the stream from the previous day.
“Yes! It would be wonderful to soak my feet for a while. By all means let’s go! Perhaps we can find some food while we are there. I’m must so weary from all this walking.” She smiled as she and Timothy moved slowly towards the small stream.
Timothy and Cybelle sat upon a large rock at the edge of the stream. The water was clear and cool. “Let’s just sit here for a while and enjoy this.” She said stretching her legs out so the water was splashing directly upon them. “I do believe I am working up an appetite. When we leave here we can look for something that will tickle our tummies.” She said with a wink.
“Yes! Of course! I’m sure there is something around here we can munch on. I am however, watching my weight just a bit.” He teased knowing full well he needed energy to carry his heavy shell.
“You know there are grab pots down near the river. I have some friends that got caught in them. I heard humans are putting those things out everywhere and all sorts of reptiles are being caught in them. They call them crab pots because humans like to eat crabs and they use these crab pots to catch them. I’d sure hate to get caught in one of those things and end up as someone’s dinner.” She frowned as she continued to rattle on.
Timothy listened as Cybelle continued to tell him tales from her friends and relatives. The day passed quickly and they snuggled under some heavy leaves and brush to rest. Life was good!
Days passed and Cybelle stayed very close to Timothy. “He is a handsome tortoise” She whispered to the wind.
About that time Timothy stuck out his long neck and quickly turned to Cybelle. “Run! Run! Run as fast as you can and hide in that thicket. I smell dogs!” He yelled loudly.
Cybelle move as fast as her legs would carry her and pushed her way under the thick leaves. “Hurry up Timothy!” She called.
Timothy was not fast enough. Before he knew it he was surrounded by two huge black dogs. They were barking so loud his ears were about to burst. Quickly he tucked in his head and then his tail becoming a hard ball of sorts. “I hope my shell is hard enough that they can’t bite me!” He whimpered. The dogs were relentless and would not give up! They barked and stuck their nose right up to Timothy’s nose. They sniffed and sniffed but Timothy would not budge.
“Dear Lord please do not let these beast eat me.” He prayed! “Just let me live and I will spend all of my days with beautiful Cybelle.” He gasped as the dog’s foot sent him tumbling across the dirt. The dog tried to bite Timothy’s shell but it was too hard. He tossed it like a football into the air but Timothy did not move. At last the dogs heard a voice calling them and left poor Timothy lying upon his back in the dirt. Try as hard as he could, he could not turn himself over. He poked out his head and wiggled all about. Nothing worked!
At last he heard Cybelle’s voice.
“Timothy are you ok?” She asked pushing up close to him.
“Yes I am ok but please help me to turn over. I can’t seem to get back on my feet!” He panted.
Cybelle took her mouth and pulled on his shell until he was able to turn himself over. “Thank God you are alright. Those were vicious dogs and I was terrified they would eat you!”
“I am fine now but let us get going before they come back. I’m so glad my shell was hard enough to protect me. I could feel their teeth and it was painful.” He winced. “Not as painful as if I were in one of their mouths though.” He let out a huge breath of air. “This is a big world and we are just two small tortoises. We better stick together or we will be something’s dinner.” He smiled shyly.
So it came to pass that Timothy was no longer a lonely tortoise and kept Cybelle by his side for the rest of his life. Some say that they lived to be over 100 years old and had many hatchlings. The most important thing is that they were not lonely and spread their love all over the sunny sands of the deep-south. If you come upon a tortoise on one of your adventures in this big world remember it is very possible that it is one of Timothy’s hatchlings. Be kind and protect him for he is one of God’s creatures too. He keeps our eco system balanced just like all other animals do.
Written by Sybil Shearin
All Rights Reserved.
Question. Why were the dogs unable to eat Timothy?