Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Legendary Ozark Flying Turtle

There has been a time honored, oral tradition that has been handed down throughout the Ozarks' Region. The legend of this creature, and its magnificent feats of agility, spans from the creation of the earth until now. This agile creature has been rumored to be an absolute Ozark chameleon, blending in with its surrounding. It has also been a conundrum or riddle to those who are not baptized into the Ozarkian frame of mind. To those who are not initiated in the subtle ways of the hills, this creature may look like a common box turtle (Terrapene carolina), but this would be far from the truth.

The newly captured Ozark Flying Turtle - Ozarkus terrapinus aerobaticus

This turtle was given its scientific name, Terrapene ozarkus aerobaticus, by famed Ozark zoologist, Cepheus B. White (1804-1871).Aeschylus, the ancient Greek playwright,  met his death around 456 BC due to a airborne turtle. Valerius Maximus wrote that he was killed outside the city by a turtle dropped by an eagle which had mistook his head for a rock suitable for shattering the shell of the reptile. Today, we know the truth is he was attacked by a an extinct cousin of the Ozark Flying Turtle.

This Ozark turtle has garnered its name due to the fact this small reptile has the ability fly to the height of 4 - 5 feet at the age of 2 years. Not only that, but it has the cognition & ability to work in a group (pod) in order to help launch younger turtles into the air.

The Ozark Flying Turtle preparing to launch itself into a nearby tree.
These hatchling Ozark Flying Turtles do not have a hinged shell that rotates at first, but they develop one after two years. From there, it develops the ability to separate its shell into 6 hexagonal pieces. As these fledgling turtles grow to maturity, a bystander may happen to hear the slow & hypnotic rhythm as these turtles begin to rotate their shells in an attempt to become airborne. Watching these turtles extend their shells, and rotate them in quick manner inspired the traveling French naturalist ,Gustave Ponton d'Amécourt, in 1861, to coin the word hélicoptère, which originates from the Greek helix (ἕλιξ) "helix, spiral, whirl, convolution"[1] and pteron (πτερόν) "wing".

It is also this species of Ozark turtle that inspired Theodor Seuss Geisel,  also known as Dr. Seuss. He was enthralled at the mechanics of this turtle while on a White River fishing exposition on April 1st, 1951. This fascination led him to write the book Yertle the Turtle in April of 1952.

Once in the air, these turtles can escape predators and lodge themselves onto tree limbs & fence posts as they act as guards & sentinels for the rest of their pod.

Lately, there are some nature lovers in the Ozarks who have taken it upon themselves to develop a nurturing training ground for these turtles. They have modified the sheet throwing machine into a unique launching apparatus to encourage & facilitate the natural skills of the Ozark Flying Turtle.

Just the Facts
This turtle is the one Ozark animal I can most identify myself with.


As you might as well know, this Ozark Flying Turtle is legendary, and not all legends are 100% true. Yet, there are many facts that can initiate legends.

There is an Ozark saying I heard many years a go. "I am a turtle on a fence post."

The Ozark Flying Turtle acting
as  a sentential & guard for his pod.
How does a turtle get on a fence post. Well, the truth didn't get there by itself. And didn't disengage and rotate its shell to become air-born at the age of 2 years. Somebody picked it up and sat it there.

To the point: I find myself...a turtle on a fence post.

The turtle's view of the world from the fence post may be breathtaking, but it is a helpless situation to be abandoned on the fence post of life.

As I look back over my life, I realize that I am at certain stations in my life by the grace, mercy &  favor of my Father in Heaven. Secondly, I am positioned due to someone's work or knowledge ahead of me. I realize I did not get to the place I am today without help. The older I get, there more I realize the world is not about me. The fact is...if I were to die today, life on earth would still go on. Life's focus is not to be on the fence post. Our calling is not to focus on ourselves, but we should care for others and launch them ahead of ourselves. This is not easy, but this is legendary. In the words of my Lord,

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these. Mark 12: 30-31

When we look at the big picture of life, there are those who inspire us to do the impossible and launch us to the place that is unobtainable in our own abilities. We also have the same potential to do this for others.

So, are there Ozark Flying Turtles?

I'll let you be the judge of that. But as Spring dawns in the Ozarks, I think I'm starting hear the slow & hypnotic rhythmic pulsations of rotating shells. Excuse me as I go outside to my modified launcher and facilitate my favorite turtles into becoming airborne. I believe I see a fence post at the corner of my yard that's in need of a little decoration.


Have a great April 1st & enjoy your Ozarks' History.