Topsail NC, My Summer Vacation

         Saturday, excitement filled the room as Steve and I rose at 3:30 am. We were going to the beach! By 4:30 we were driving away from our little home. We stopped at Valerie's Restaurant along the way because the name sounded enticing. Once full of grits and eggs we began driving and jamming to music. We arrived on the island by 12:30. We invited a friend to spend the weekend with us since she lives in N.C., only two hours away. I had not seen her in 10 years. We had a reunion before we even had the cottage keys in hand.
         3:00 is check-in time and we were pleased with what we found, a lovely airy house with four large bedrooms upstairs and another downstairs. The two oceanside rooms opened onto a deck and Steve and I left the door open so we could hear the surf while we slept. We realized that Bonnie (Hurricane) had the ability to shorten our vacation so we decided not to fret about it but to enjoy the time we had. Steve's son Lakota and his girlfriend Summer arrived Sunday night very late. He missed the turtle incident completely.

         The turtle incident. Those babies made our vacation.

         We noticed after scouring the beach for shark's teeth that several turtle nests were marked off. One was pretty close to our house. They hatch at night and scurry to the light of the moon on the water. What if it is a moonless night? Will they feel the vibration of the waves and know in the bottom of their centuries old genes that this is indeed the way to go? Hell no! They head for the nearest street lamp across an asphalt road so they can meet their demise under the wheel of an all-terrain vehicle.
        Steve went outside to move his truck into view for Lakota and low and behold, there was a full blown baby turtle party on the car port. The shouts were sent up the stairs for the recruits. There were six of us in the kitchen clearing dinner dishes. We armed ourselves with a mixture of panic and rapture and flew down those steps. My ever practical mother-in-law decided in mid-stream to fly back up the steps for her flash light. This caused a traffic/panic jam as the rest of us tried to shimmy by. Not knowing what to expect we were dropped-jawed as we scurried after tiny turtle after tiny turtle. Steve, even though on vacation, still thought it necessary to bring a five gallon bucket, soap and scrub brushes to wash his truck. He never washed that truck but he did empty that bucket to make a temporary shelter for 36 infant loggerheads.
         The turtles are endangered and we knew we needed help so we did what any concerned citizen would do. We called the turtle hotline. (Yes, there is a turtle hotline.) The turtle lady came out barking orders to all her troops which by now included the neighbors at three houses and some people from New Jersey who showed up from I don't know where, New Jersey I suppose.
         Baby turtles can fit in the palm of your hand and they move very swiftly. Several were found near the road heading for the street light moon. They scurried into the grassy areas only to be plucked up by the mighty turtle hunters. Steve would begin to track his little fugitives from the nest site and follow the trail until it ran out, at the end there would await his prize.
         The turtle lady decided it best if she open the nest herself and inside there was a cache of 59 more turtles. These she lifted into the bucket and we all stood by as they were released onto the sand further down the beach. She stood in the surf and shined her flash light on the water and the turtles attention turned from the street lamp onto a battery powered hand held object. Their new "moon". (It's hard to be a baby loggerhead these days.) After she packed up her crew and headed home, Steve, the renowned turtle chaser, continued with his work and discovered two more tykes in the grassy area of our neighbor's house.
         After three hours of hunting we were satisfied that all was right on the beach and we could safely return to our cottage. We went to bed that night heady with the realization that we helped to save an endangered species. Of course, we also knew that only one in 200 turtles lives to see adulthood.
         The weather was beautiful for the rest of our stay. I swam, rode my bike and generally had a great time. The mandatory evacution began on Tuesday from one in the afternoon until 5 for the renters. The island had to be cleared by 8 pm. We spent two restless nights in a hotel in Benson N.C. before leaving and driving to Ginny's in Newport News on Thursday. We were home by Saturday afternoon. No one is crying the blues. Bonnie came, no one invited her, she was bigger than we were and she chased us out.

Endangered Sea Turtles

Valerie Trivett        

© August 1998

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