About turtle chases, once and now

When I was a kid, at the end of each summer when some of my cousins were visiting from Woonsocket, Rhode Island, our mothers would load us into their cars and take us for the peak summer treat, a visit to Playland in Rye.

Starting at the age of 6 or 7, human beings have an urge for order. We are never anarchistic, not even as children; we have rules, laws, protocols and proprieties.

Each year at Playland, we applied that sense of proper order to the rides. They bordered a wide landscaped walkway and never did we run up and down selecting rides at random. We knew the rule. Indeed, we developed the rule. Which was: we started with the mildest ride first and worked our way up to the scariest ride, either the Dragon Coaster (not the scariest coaster I’ve been on, but certainly the first), or maybe the Octopus, my long time favorite ride.

The first ride was always, always, always the Turtle Chase. It consisted of a large looping rail which went up and down very low hills. In that sense, I guess it could be called a coaster. Upon the rail was the ride itself, a line of cars which were colorfully painted wooden turtles into which we would climb and seat ourselves on a curved padded bench. There was a bar to hold on to but no seat belts. (Cars themselves didn’t have seat belts back then; recently my sister and I wondered how the hell we all managed to survive the dangers of our childhood.)

So when my friend Ellen Kaye sent me this audio minute about an African tortoise named Solomon who ran away from his Tennessee home, I immediately thought of the Turtle Chase. Which never, in our time, ran away from home but it’s no longer at Playland so who knows? Maybe those turtle cars derailed themselves one night and made their escape, just like Solomon.

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