The Legend Of the Cooter: A Southern-fried fable
One day long, long ago Possum called the animals of what is now Citrus County to a meeting on the banks of Lake Tsala Apopka. There was a difficulty to be addressed.
“My friends,” Possum said, nervously flicking his skinny, hairless tail back and forth, “we have a problem. Old Gator has been makin’ a terrible ruckus, and none of us can get a wink of sleep. Somebody needs to go and see what’s wrong.”
“Turtle!” Raccoon exclaimed. “Turtle’s perfect—good at swimmin’, and he’s got a hard shell to protect himself.”
The other animals, fearing Gator’s sharp teeth and sharper hunger, also urged Turtle to go. Too shy to protest, he swam out to the center of the lake. There, he saw Gator—big, green and splashing fiercely. How could he ever confront the beast?
Turtle paddled nearer and was about to ask him what was wrong when, suddenly, Gator lunged at him. He withdrew into his shell just in time to hide from Gator’s crushing jaws. Next, he felt himself being lifted upward, then sinking rapidly.
Turtle peeked out of his shell and saw that he was in the great lizard’s belly. And he saw a sharp spike from a trout’s fin imbedded in the side of Gator’s stomach. Turtle pulled the spike out, and a great roar resounded around him. Then he abruptly tumbled out of Gator’s belly and into the lake.
Gator felt so much better that he returned Turtle to shore on his massive back, promising friendship—and quiet—forever. Turtle’s remarkable bravery received cheers and great praise from all the animals.
“From now on,” Possum said, “we’ll call you ‘Courageous Turtle’.”
“Cooter!” echoed baby Mouse. And that was the name that stuck.
Today, The Great American Cooter Festival in Inverness celebrates the little turtle with the big heart. Come join in all the fun!