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What's better than finding a stranger's message in a bottle? How about finding a turtle with the initials and date carved by one's own son, 47-years ago. That's what happened to 85-year old Holland Cokeley on May 6th, 2012, while walking his dog in South Strabane Township in Washington County, Pennsylvania.
The fun saga began in 1965 when Mr. Cokeley's then 13-year old son Jeff was hanging around in the woods that surrounded his family home and came across a tiny box turtle. On a whim, he picked up the little reptile and carved out his initials J.C. and the year 1965 on the turtle's bottom hard shell, before letting it scurry away into the bushes.
While growing up he came across the turtle a couple of times, but then forgot all about it, especially once he moved away from the area, almost 35 years ago. So you can only imagine how surprised Jeff, who is now 59-years old and resides in Rochester, NY was, when he received a call from his father that he had just managed to not only see, but also, take pictures of the box size turtle that has grown to the size of a man's hand, but still sports the etchings on his shell, quite clearly. The errant turtle is now on the prowl again - Maybe someone else from Jeff's family will discover it, in another 49 years!
Box turtles are endemic to North America. Found primarily in the South Central, Eastern and South Eastern regions they feature domed shells that are hinged at the bottom. This allows the reptile to close its shell tightly when faced with predators. In the wild, the tiny creatures forage for food, primarily plant matter, on land and sleep inside burrows or wedged under fallen trees or rocks to keep safe from predators. They also require plenty of fresh water for rehydration and while not expert swimmers, can paddle around pretty efficiently. Omnivorous when young, they turn largely vegetarian as adults. While the average life span of the box turtle is about 50 years, some can live as long as, 100 years which, seems to be the direction 'J.C., 1965' is heading towards.