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Puerto Rican Angel…Her Life's A Beach, Then She Growls

Puerto Rican Angel


January 4, 2004
Copyright © 2004 The Dallas Morning News. All rights reserved.

It is 5 a.m. Christmas morning. Earlier, I was discussing the wonder of Jesus with a fellow believer who works at the corner 7-Eleven. I have just finished Paul Crume's Dec. 25 essay "Of angels in America - and everywhere." It reminded me of my own encounters with angels.

Like many, I believe in angels partly because they help explain events in my life. Take this example from 1978: I had drifted into Puerto Rico a month and a half earlier with nothing but a few dollars in my pocket, the clothes on my back and some poetry in a satchel. For several days, I had been living on the street and I was filthy, hungry, desperate. I was looking for the Salvation Army where, I had been told, I might find some help. The sun was setting, casting long shadows across a vast parking lot where I was picking my way through rows of cars. Suddenly I heard a voice crying in English, "Hey, where are you going?"

I looked around and saw a Puerto Rican man wave to me. I walked over to him and explained that I was going to the Salvation Army. "I'm driving right by there," he said. "I'll give you a ride."

He drove me to the doors of the Hogar Esperanza. The ride took 20 minutes. I thanked him, and he disappeared into the gathering night. That incident initiated a series of events that led to my conversion in 1979.

I eventually came to see how completely improbable this all was. I looked and smelled like the half-crazy street person I had become, yet the man called out to me. He not only knew where the Hogar Esperanza was, he just happened to be driving past it and he offered to take me there. It was an offer that led me to Christ.

I think that man was an angel.

Mike Carter, Irving

Her Life's A Beach, Then She Growls


March 14, 2004
Copyright © 2004 Newsday. All rights reserved.

The turtle growled.

I never knew that turtles growled, or made any sound at all.

Last May, I sat on the cold sand on Playa Brava at Culebra, Puerto Rico, waiting with a team of researchers for a 600-pound leatherback sea turtle to come ashore and lay its eggs. Midnight darkness bathed the undeveloped beach.

Eventually the turtle emerged from the sea, like a visitor from the past. Her great shell rocking with every step, she slowly made her way up the beach.

When she rested, the scientists took measurements and drilled a hole in her back to attach a satellite tag.

I saw the turtle moving its head head up and down and decided to investigate. I soon found myself listening to her breathing, which sounded like a horse sighing.

Then she growled. It sounded like a tired old man clearing his throat. There was more exertion than menace in the sound. Sea turtles soar in the water, but they struggle to move on land.

Among sea turtles, I learned, only leatherbacks make noises.

It was difficult to restrain a romantic notion. The growl felt to me like a declaration. Leatherbacks are the rarest sea turtles in the world, and they have been coming to Playa Brava for eons. It is likely that the turtle was nesting within a few hundred feet of where she had nested many times before. It seemed the turtle was saying, "This is my beach. I'm back."

I'll never forget the leatherback's growl.

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