After an encounter with Robert Lewis “Bob” Shafer in the early 1940s, a local turtle found itself with his initials on its shell. That turtle was not seen by Shafer again for over 50 years. The terrapin would then reappear to Shafer’s nephews just over 75 years following the initial encounter.
On May 26, 1943, Bob Shafer was at home, living with his parents. After going outside, he found a dry land terrapin, or a box turtle. As did many people at that time, he decided to carve his initials, R.L.S., into the turtle’s shell, then added the date.
After being let go, the turtle would go on to lead a full life near Masters Road, just west of Caldwell, disappearing for over 50 years. Then, in June 1997, the same turtle crawled out of the pond for Bob Shafer to find again, the first of several sightings.
Since 1997, the turtle has reappeared several times, within a quarter mile of where Bob Shafer first encountered it. Even after Bob Shafer’s passing in 2011, the turtle would continue to appear, visiting his nephews, Tommy and Eddie Shafer, throughout the years; it also visited in 2008 and 2014.
On Thursday, June 21, the turtle reappeared once again to Tommy and Eddie Shafer while they were sitting on their front porch visiting with one another, reminding them of their uncle.
Remembering his uncle as a veteran and a good influence as he was growing up, Eddie Shafer was pleased to see a reminder of the man he knew.
“He was an amazing man,” said Eddie Shafer.
While the average life span of a box turtle is approximately 50 years, many survive past their 100th birthday. With its most recent appearance, the turtle would be at least 75 years old, although no one is sure exactly how old the turtle was when Bob Shafer first carved his initials on its back.
“Each time the terrapin appears, it is within a quarter of a mile of where Bob had met it for the first time,” Eddie Shafer said. “No one know how old the terrapin was when the initials were carved on it but I think it would be safe to say it is approaching 100 years old.”
Although this turtle has proven itself to be hardy, carving onto a turtle’s shell will hurt the turtle; the shell is not keratin like a bug’s shell, but organic tissue with nerve endings. Holding a turtle while carving into its shell can also cause alarm and anxiety for the terrapin.
After the most recent visit, Eddie Shafer is sure the turtle will reappear again in the future and bring back its memories of his uncle as a young man in 1943.
Read more in the Tuesday, July 17, edition of The West Virginia Daily News.