Turned Turtle

“I can still see that man …had a damn rod as thick as my arm over his arm…he was laying there, couldn’t move. Both engines were lying in the ditch. Then the Doctor hollered. “Does anybody got some whiskey??? Come on get some! If you got nothing, get some! We’ve got to have whiskey for this guy.” They poured the whole pint in him. He was suffering…. It took all day and all night… It was 35 to 40 below. You don’t ever forget those things….”

My grandpa remembering a train wreck just south of his farm near Langworthy Iowa  January 1929


I (DM) have been working on a local history book this Winter.  Decided to see if I could find any more information about that train wreck in the archives of our local paper.

I hit pay dirt within 20 minutes after I narrowed down the year and the month.

It read:

“The accident resulted when the train consisting of a double-header engine, mail car, and coach van ran into a heavy snow drift.  the train left Cedar Rapids at 8 o’clock Friday morning and was stalled at various times until it steamed out of Anamosa at noon.  the derailment occurred when the front engine jumped the track when hitting an unusually heavy drift.  Both engines were thrown to the left side of the track.  Engine number one ran up the side of the bank and then turned turtle.  when it stopped, the steam was still on and the wheels turning….

Roscoe Stevens of Marion was penned under a wrecked locomotive for more than three hours and suffered the compound fracture of one of his legs.  Both legs were badly burned by hot steam .  Mr Stevens suffered seriously from shock and exposure in addition to his other injuries.  It was necessary to use a large jack to raise the locomotive sufficiently to get him out….”


While looking @  weather data for the state in  January of 29 they experienced record snow fall amounts, (over 34 inches)  combined with temperatures averaging -3,  which created snow drifts as high as 10 feet,  hard as a rock…hard enough to stop a train.

That phrase “turned turtle” stuck with me this week.

I spotted 3 flies in a window sill yesterday morning, all of whom were  coming out of hibernation…all three had turned turtle.

They were thrashing around  on their back, going nowhere.


I like that phrase….turn turtle.

To Turn Turtle:  To find one’s self upside down, on your back.


Not dead (yet) but unless something changes, your long term outlook is pretty bleak.

You need intervention. 

You have turned turtle.

Sometimes I turn turtle.

Every few years something enters my life that totally bamboozles me.

To turn turtle is to be human.  But because we are proud folk, we thrash around mostly in secret, hoping no one will notice.  I am tempted to think, my set of circumstances is so unique,  such a convoluted knot of a mess, things are just unfixable.

And Iwould be wrong.

I may not know the right person with the answers (yet) but they are out there.


They may not live in my town.   May not even live in my state, but somebody, somewhere has a jack big enough to get my engine back on the track.

That jack can be something as simple as a book. Sometimes it’s been another couple we knew who was just a little further down the trail than us.  Multiple times it has involved calling to make an appointment with a counselor. It has even involve talking to someone 1/2 way around the country  until I had a breakthrough.

First step is to ask for help.

train wreck

1929 train wreck Grandpa told me about


2 thoughts on “Turned Turtle

  1. It isn’t turning turtle that spooks me as much as that feeling that I am about to. That moment when the weight of things make us top heavy and the next sharp turn has the real possibility of gravity doing the rest of the job. It’s a moment of utter helplessness as one of our wheels isn’t firmly on the ground and we begin to anticipate impact.
    great word picture Michael ! DM

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This is just slightly amusing. Your post is a reminder that our turtle and tortoise hibernation period is about over, and it’s time to start watching the roads for sluggish turtles! I’ve never found any turned turtle, but they can get smooshed or bounced around by passing cars whose drivers don’t notice them. Smooshed is one thing, but if they’ve only been bounced,they usually can be repaired and sent back to their world. (Fiberglass repairs shells nicely.)
    Never heard of such a thing! (repairing turtle shells w/ fiberglass) what do you think…would that be a side line business you could do in addition to varnishing boats? 😉 DM

    Liked by 1 person

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