The Tortoise Shepherds
By Don Ray Williams
November 25, 2005
On a beach in Southwestern Panama, named Playa La Barqueta
I met a man today, one I will not soon forget.
In these days and times when what you read is nothing less than vile,
To meet a man like Maricial, can’t help but make you smile.
Maricial is a runner; he runs marathons for fun,
And it’s on these morning jaunts, that he does the good he’s done.
As he runs along the beach, he sees marks a tortoise made,
And he knows what lies beneath the sand are eggs the tortoise laid.
He knows that these tortoise eggs, many poachers want to find,
To sell as aphrodisiacs and make money for their time.
Maricial takes them home and buries them in the sand,
He watches over them and protects them, like a shepherd protects his lambs.
He dates each nest, and monitors it, and when the time has come,
He harvests baby tortoises, and he loves them every one.
In about five days, when they have grown, to silver dollar size,
He takes them back to the beach, and watches them with pride.
When on the beach, these tortoises, instinctively feel their needs,
They waddle off toward the ocean, with great deftness and great speed.
I understand that they return to the exact point, from which they’ve run,
And maybe if they build a nest, Maricial will find it, like he has always done.
Maricial, like his father, and his father’s father too,
Not for money, not for profit, not for fame, I’m telling you,
Just because they love the tortoise, and they want it to survive,
And because of men like this, generations are alive.