This line is the first half of a commonly quoted joke from The Simpsons. It appears in the sixth season episode Bart's Girlfriend (2F04), in which Bart becomes enamoured with Jessica Lovejoy, the local reverend's daughter. He tries to clean up his act in order to impress her, but it turns out she's just as much (if not more) of a ne'er-do-well as he is.

In one scene, Jessica teases Bart by holding his hand and then pulling the fire alarm with it. As students and teachers rush into the hallway in order to evacuate the building, Groundskeeper Willie also rushes out exclaiming "If I don't save the wee turtles, who will?"

He breaks down the door of a classroom and enters, but rushes out seconds later, turtles attached to every part of his body.

"Ack! Save me from the wee turtles!" 

The joke is a classic example of Simpsons-type humour: it begins as something that's reasonably funny in its own right, and once the viewer thinks the joke is over it expands into something funnier. It also gives us a glimpse into the character of Groundskeeper Willie, because he's more concerned about the school's pet turtles when children are potentially in danger.

The joke is often referenced in popular culture, even inspiring the name of a rock band called the Wee Turtles. A quick Google search using the quote suggests that it is not quite among the most popular quotes from the series; it yields 104 results ("I call him Gamblor!" brings up 4,880, "My cat's breath smells like cat food" yields almost 22,000), which is still reasonably respectable. And besides, there aren't many occasions for people to use a line about wee turtles outside of the Simpsons context.

It's just funny. 



The FDA and I will save the wee turtles.

You see, here in the U.S., it's illegal to sell baby turtles... but people do their damndest to buy them anyhow.


(b)Sales; general prohibition. Except as otherwise provided in this section, viable turtle eggs and live turtles with a carapace length of less than 4 inches shall not be sold, held for sale, or offered for any other type of commercial or public distribution.

The restriction basically has to do with restricting the spread of salmonella. Back in the 70's when baby turtles in their little turtle islands were so popular, tens of thousands of children went to the hospital with salmonella poisoning, because small children are too stupid to not put turtles in their mouths.

The infection got so bad that it ended with no small number of verifiable cases of salmonella-related deaths. At this point, the FDA passed this set of code.

They're serious about it, too. Any person who violates any provision of this section ... shall be subject to a fine of not more than $1,000 or imprisonment for not more than 1 year, or both, for each violation, in accordance with section 368 of the Public Health Service Act (42 U.S.C. 271). (That's PER TURTLE.)

However, what no one mentions the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of turtles (mostly red eared sliders) that died as well.

Turtles need a lot of care, especially tiny baby hatchlings like these guys. Aquatic turtles make horrible first pets or impulse buys. This is an animal that gets a foot across, lives 30 years, likes to bite as it gets bigger, and needs about $200 of equipment--minimum--to survive and thrive.

The damn little "turtle islands" provided none of the 4 essential pieces of equipment: UV light, heat lamp, filter, and heater in the water. The filter and heater are slightly negotiable. The two lamps are not.

Without the heat lamp, the turtle will stop eating, food will putrify in its gut as it cannot digest its meal, and it becomes more prone to bacterial and fungal infections with each day it cannot warm itself. Without the UV light, the turtle cannot absorb vitamin D3, so in turn cannot process calcium correctly. It is unable to build a strong, healthy shell, and basically rots from the inside.

All of these little nuggets of plague were themselves doomed to short, painful lives full of suffering. If they were lucky, they died quickly, within weeks. The unlucky ones might make it six months or two years, before following the same path.

In making it hard for people to buy "OMG KYUUUUUTE BABY TURTLES!", the FDA actually did the animals themselves a favor as well. Just like a lot of folks love kittens and puppies but hate cats or dogs, a lot of people want a baby turtle with no thoughts of what it will grow into. But the people that have educated themselves ahead of time and are willing to own the turtle once it's larger than a quarter make better homes and give their pets the potential for long, happy, healthy lives.

As for me, NO I won't sell you a baby turtle (unless you are a teacher and have paperwork--then it's legal for educational purposes). It's illegal, no I won't bend the law "just for you", and no it's not my fault I "ruined your child's birthday" because I wouldn't sell you "JUST ONE LITTLE TURTLE, I PROMISE I WON'T TELL!". Quite frankly, even if it were legal I wouldn't do it. The animals are in better care in my hands than in those of an impulse buyer.

wuukiee and the FDA: saving the wee turtles since 2006.

It wasn't their fault. They had been sentenced to death based on a falsehood and my arguments in their defense had fallen on deaf ears. But what could be done? I had been commanded to commit testudinicide (not that anyone in charge would have known what that was) and my job depended on it. My boss was a maniac and he wanted every one of the literally thousands of turtles, who were happily multiplying in the ideal breeding grounds of our two massive sewer lagoons, DEAD!

He hated the turtles for reasons of his own but justified his campaign to eradicate them with logical sounding arguments. There were at least three species of turtle inhabiting the thirty some odd acres of lagoon. The species that was the focus of this holocaust was the commonplace Southern painted turtle; the other two were soft-shelled and snapping turtles which were less common and rarely ventured into our traps. Yes, I said traps. This was serious business.

I was responsible, along with all of my other sewer plant duties (you don't want to know, trust me), with maintaining and setting the traps. I was also charged with dispatching the captives regularly. There was only one other employee at the plant; my boss. So passing the buck was out.

I tried doing my macabre duty but it was worse for me than any other job at the plant. Which is really saying something under the circumstances. I couldn't sleep at night. There had to be another way. I needed the job and I needed to keep my sanity. One of those sleepless nights, I had an idea.

I went to see my stepdad, Russ, who is mostly to blame for my love of all the earth's creatures. I laid out my plan to him. Russ's place is twenty acres and has a nice little oxbow lake on it near the river, which obligingly feeds it when the hard rains fall. Russ had a plan of his own to improve the little lake but we'll get to that later. The plan I brought to him was approved and the turtles would be relocated rather than exterminated.

So I was now smuggling turtles and my boss agreed to look the other way as long as the subject didn't come back on him. If that happened he would promptly throw me under the bus. I could live with that. I would show up with large tubs of turtles and often would find Russ napping by his little lake. He had agreed to keep our turtle smuggling operation on the down low . One such trip found an unusual amount of activity at the lake. Russ had hired a dozer operator to build a dam to trap more water in his lake. More kayak space for Russ and even better habitat for our wetbacks. I wore gloves when handling turtles (Ack, save me from the wee turtles!) but Russ usually didn't. This time, one got his thumb pretty good and it was bleeding. On our way back up the hill we saw the dozer guy taking a break. I didn't know the guy but he mentioned that he did contract work for the water/sewer department. Russ shoves his bloody thumb at the guy and tells him all about our project, including the part where my boss is an idiot because he thinks turtles eat fish and everybody knows a turtle isn't fast enough to catch a fish. My life flashed before my eyes. When Russ and I were alone again I mentioned that that wasn't what I had meant by, "Keep it on the down low". He got real quiet.

Nothing ever came of it. I had argued against removing turtles from the plant's lagoons. My advice was ignored. We had never stood a chance of removing them all but did succeed in reducing the population a lot (I'm good at my job). After a few years the lagoons began having a massive, crippling algae bloom every summer. It cost the city many thousands of dollars and was still going on when I retired. It's probably just a coincidence but the favorite food of the Southern painted turtle is not fish. It's algae.

In residency at OHSU, there is one xray posted up on the wall when we go down to clamor for radiology results or beg the radiology techs to get our person in sooner.

It is a plain film of a child, a chest xray. You can see the wee turtle quite clearly in the child's esophagus.

That child is quite lucky that it is not in his trachea. The story that makes the rounds is that gastroenterology takes the child to the operating room and retrieves the turtle with an endoscope. The story is that they both live, though the parents give the turtle to a new home.

I hope it is true.

My father used to be a long distance trucker. He'd be gone for days at a time making the whole "Wait until your Father gets home" a little more dramatic. I have no idea where he drove to. What I do know is that he came home with a cardboard box full of grass clippings and a tortoise. We named her Venus after the only girl Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. That was based entirely on him telling us she was a girl. To this day I have no idea if he actually knew or was just full of shit.

We let her roam around the backyard. She dug a hole one day under the succulents. She never came out.

Some time later, let's say less than a year, he comes home with a shoebox. More grass clippings and a tortoise so small it fit in my hands. We named him Raphael. Raphael being so small actually got an aquarium. We got him a warming lamp, woodchips and a fake log half to sleep under. I can still remember watching him eat romaine lettuce, little head stretching out, his tiny mouth getting an edge and pulling a tiny piece away. It was mesmerizing; It was adorable.

For no reason my small mind could comprehend, he started moving slower and slower. I don't remember seeing him dead. I have no idea where his body is.

Many years later maybe a decade, we were visiting the old house, checking up on the renters when they said they found something strange. In the backyard they had set up a plastic tub with some water and in it was a turtle. They had found it in the backyard. Now mind you, this was not a native species. The little shelled demon had gone rogue and run off. They didn't mention if they had tried to find its owners. We took him home for some reason, gave him full reign of the backyard for some reason. Three hours later, no turtle.

We looked around, didn't find him dead or alive. Mind you, we lived in a desert.

I like turtles, but I definitely should not be allowed around them.

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