Entry from my private journal – “Saturday, September 5, 2020. I chased a turtle for a half mile early this morning but never caught him. It’s possible he was a ninja who found it easy to evade me. A more likely explanation is he had too much of a head start. I also realized late in my pursuit that the turtle and I were going in opposite directions. After considerable reflection I now believe that was a strategic error too significant to overcome.”
Chances are some of my friends are thinking the turtle outran me, but I assure you that wasn’t the case. For the sake of accuracy, may the record reflect I wasn’t really chasing that turtle, but merely following the longest turtle trail I’ve ever seen.
I’m not a morning person and never have been. Before I retired from banking, I awakened each workday to music from my bedside clock. Hitting the snooze button rewarded me with seven minutes of soothing melodies suitable for slumber. A second tap added seven more and took me to fourteen. A third tap continued the music, but at the fifteen-minute mark a horrendous buzzing noise seriously interrupted my tranquility. That’s when I got up.
Thanks to the effects of aging it’s gotten easier for me to wake up in the mornings. Or perhaps I should say it’s more difficult to sleep, which reminds me of a moment on our family farm from thirty or so years ago.
It was harvesting season and I had taken a week of vacation from my bank job to help pick peanuts. I decided to surprise my father, a consistently early riser, by being there when he walked out of the house that Monday morning. The surprise was mine, however, as I was too late. The next morning, I arrived fifteen minutes earlier, only to again find him already on the job.
That night I set my alarm clock so I could get to the farm well before daylight, expecting to find Daddy at the breakfast table. As I pulled into the quiet driveway, I saw the slight beam of a flashlight near the diesel tank. In the predawn darkness Daddy was filling up the tractors with fuel.
“I’ve been trying to get here before you came outside,” I confided with a grin. “But I’m giving up on that. I wish I enjoyed getting up early as much as you do.”
That’s when Daddy said something I’m just now beginning to appreciate. He said, “I don’t particularly enjoy getting up early. I just wake up and can’t go back to sleep. I’d rather get up and do something than lie there in bed and be miserable.”
It had never crossed my mind he didn’t choose to be a morning person, but now I’m having some of those same unplanned awakenings. That’s why I was walking Dude the dog on a Saturday morning just as the sun was beginning to rise.
The two of us headed east on Coley Crossing, the dirt road beside our home. A county road-scraper had been there the day before and there had been no traffic since. Etched into a canvas of smooth sand was the trail of a large turtle. His route was clearly defined for a half mile until it veered into a cotton field.
Dude the dog is good company but not much of a tracker. He showed little interest in leaving the road and I was already short on incentive. Jane doesn’t have a recipe for turtle soup and I’m allergic to row-crop rattlesnakes. So, we abandoned the mission and stayed on the road to our turnaround spot at the railroad track.
On our return trip home, I realized the turtle had been going west while Dude and I had been eastward bound. I could have followed that trail until my hair turned gray and would not have caught him. Although my efforts were not successful, I was reminded of a couple of old lessons.
The first lesson is that it’s best to start early. Even a slow-moving turtle is hard to catch if he gets a big lead. Secondly, it’s critical to make sure we’re going in the right direction. Speed and determination don’t help if we’re running the wrong way. Those two observations can be useful whether we’re after a turtle or chasing a dream.
There’s one other thing I’ll suggest. If you ever chase a turtle and don’t catch him, it’s probably best not to admit that or even note it in your journal. Just lay low and hope no one finds out.