Rev. Tim Olsen, the pastor at Garland Presbyterian Church, was driving to church one recent Sunday morning when he spotted a box turtle trying to cross Liberty Street Extension.
He stopped and got out of his car to assist the animal to cross without getting run over, and made an amazing discovery.
"Just by chance, I looked on the bottom of the turtle. To my surprise, I found three different initials and three different dates," he said. "The initials 'L.A.T.' had been carved at the top and the middle section showed the faintly discernible date of 1917, with the initial 'M'."
Photo provided to Times Observer
Rev. Tim Olsen of Warren discovered a box turtle on the road that appears to be about 100 years old. He was moving the reptile to the side of the road to make sure it didn’t get run over when he happened to look at the bottom of its shell.
He continued, "On the bottom left were the initials 'F.O.' and the date 1932, and on the right side the initials "F.O.' repeat with the date 1931 clearly discernible. The 1917 date was not clear in my color picture, but a black and white (photo) brought out the date 1917 ever so faintly."
Olsen said he did a check on the Internet and found that box turtles can live 100 years, and he believes the turtle was probably full size when the 1917 date was carved. Box turtles attain there adult size in 18 to 20 years, growing at a rate of one-third of an inch per year. "It's got to be near the century mark. Remarkable to say the least," he surmised. "This guy is battle scarred."
Olsen said he had been doing some investigating about the initials. "The only lead I have, is that there is a family named Owens that have been in the Follett valley for many years."
He said by checking obituaries, he tracked down a lady who said F.O, may have been a relative.
Saving animals from traffic is not without its risks, however. "When I picked it up, it peed all over the place. I got soaked," he said. Olsen said he didn't want to stress it any more, so he released it right away.
Olsen is planning to use the story in a future sermon, saying, "We can develop a hard shell, get scars on our bellies, slow way down and live to be 100. Through it all we need to remember we can all use some help crossing the road from time to time."
Anyone that wishes to contact Olsen may call his cell, 814-706-5467 or e-mail at "firstname.lastname@example.org"
According to the Mid-Atlantic Turtle & Tortoise Society, a turtle shell is living tissue and is quite sensitive to pain. Handling a turtle is stressful to the animal, and turning one over too quickly or by the wrong methods can damage internal organs.
They can also bite.
Reptiles Alive.com advises, "They have a small home range or territory where they spend their life. Turtles relocated by well-meaning but uninformed people have difficulty finding food, water, and shelter. The survival rate for relocated box turtles is very low."
A turtle was found in Blair County last year with 1878 carved in its shell, and biologists from Clarion, Ohio and Florida that examined the reptile said the wear on its shell or carapace could be consistent with that date.