Most of the time I've really loved living in Nashville, mainly because it's a green, pretty city. To be accurate, I actually live in what used to be a small burb just outside of Davidson County whose main drag consisted of an Eisenhower-era Rexall, Nadine's Taxidermy and a family-owned hardware store that looked like a set piece from a community production of "The Music Man". Then the population started booming and quite frankly, a newcomer would be hard pressed to tell my once-little town from Franklin or Gallatin or Murfreesboro. Don't get me wrong, I think change and growth can be good things, but I am concerned about the effect this is having on indigenous flora and fauna.
Critters used to be abundant and there was a sort of respect and forebearance between the animals who called this part of Tennessee home and the bipeds who demanded to drive on it. It wasn't uncommon to see foxes, raccoons, muskrats and possums wandering around Gallatin Road when I came home after a long, late working night at the Opry. Herds of deer roamed the farms and could be seen running through the trees at the Army C of E Dam and Marina. Now those are rare sights. Even rarer are some of the plants that used to grow by the bushel in the forests and fields around here.
I'm starting to think that the credo for Tennessee has gone from "The Volunteer State" to "Ooh lookie! A tree! Let's kill it!"
This is going to sound really dumb, but one of the things that has bothered me the most about the building boom is how it is affecting the turtles and tortoises around here. There used to be more wetlands and there were plenty of snappers and loggerheads paddling their way through the cattails. They're interesting to watch and good for keeping the insect population in check. I'm sure there are still some around, but fewer wetlands mean fewer turtles and that's a shame.
Tortoises are a different story. There seem to be plenty of them, at least for now, but they have no place to go. When the weather changes you can see many of them squashed on the road as they wander around looking for food. The thing about tortoises is that they tend to stay on the same square acre or so their whole lives. When they get a mind to go in a direction, they keep going every time you set one down no matter how many times you interrupt his progress. So if a tortie thinks there's food across the street, he's gonna go and there's really nothing you can do unless you want to pick him up, carry him on across the street and hope he doesn't get confused and walk back into traffic. You can't relocate a tortoise to a new, quieter place and expect him to be happy. If he can, he'll meander back home. I know this from way too much firsthand experience. I've also lost a few perfectly good shoes that landed in the beds of pickup trucks driven by rednecks who swerved to hit the tortoise I'd just tried to keep out of traffic. I'm not proud of that.
I'm also not proud of the fact that I once attempted to use tears to keep a Metro Nashville police officer from writing me a ticket when I was stopped in the median just past a busier part of Gallatin Road to assist a tortoise. Mama didn't raise me to act that way, but at the time, I didn't have a choice.
I saw the tortie, pulled into the median and picked it up. Okay, I took a minute to pet it and talk to it. It was enough time for me to get careless about how long I was there and the next thing I knew, flashing blue lights. It was Metro. Crap. The cop strode around my car and started to tell me I needed to put my hood up. Then he saw the tortoise.
"Lady?" he said
Oh crap oh crap oh crap. I could not afford a ticket. I worked up a quiver in my voice and said, "I'm really really sorry. I'll move my car. I was driving by and he was starting to go across the street and turtles are really nice and they don't hurt anybody. See?"
I held up the tortoise for him to see and it responded to my call to bond with nature by hissing, pulling into its shell and peeing down my arm. (There has been some argument as to whether tortoises pee. This one did. Or if it wasn't pee, I don't want to know what it was...)
The policeman sighed, told me to take my turtle and please move my car or I would be towed. I thanked him profusely, offered to let him pet the tortoise (he declined) and drove to the shoulder so I could release him into the field next to the road and watch to see that he didn't wander back into traffic and get smashed.
So, where ever you are Mister Tortoise, I hope you had a good life and thank you Mister Metro Police Officer for either being nice enough to let me move the tortoise or afraid enough of the crazy hippie lady to let me do my thing.
A Shame-Faced Jas
copyright 2006 Jas Faulkner