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This little story was written to commemorate the passing of Methuseleh, a 128-year Tortoise in South Dakota at the Reptile Museum.  He spent years giving rides to children.   Thousands of people have sent pictures, so I almost feel like I knew him.  I wish I had met him, just once…

All this happened, more or less.  Oh, the glories I have seen!  Once, I watched the Ancient Ones prepare to receive visitors.

“The time is now,” chanted the guard.  “We must choose a successor!”   Armor ready and weapons sheathed, they stood firmly rooted.   Nothing deterred them. Displaying the vast power of concentrated vigilance achieved only by the very wizened, they clung to their appointed spots.

When the ground began to rumble, they considered the danger in silence.  The invasion had begun!

Only Methuseleh moved.  He stepped casually over the first small fissure.  Flames shot through his leg.  Soon he walked with great difficulty. “Somehow, I must reach the other side of the field where a fearful youngster clings to the fence.  The valiant child holds a puppy innocently above his head…high, over cracked earth that is muddied by his own falling tears.”

He mobilized his vast inner reserves.  Finally, the elder soul ambled painfully over to the youth.  “Hop on my back,” he invited.  “I’ll take you safely to the Garden Master at the gate house.  He should return soon. With him you’ll be protected. Hang on tight to the little dog, though.  Ready?  Here we go, then.”

Methuseleh was surprisingly fast for his large size, and they quickly reached the main gate.  All was quiet.  No one answered the gatehouse door.

Peering through the fence into the yard, I witnessed a surprising exchange.  Inexperience left me vastly unprepared, though.  At that time I was half my current age.  Yet, no lack of experience could ever conceal the significance of what was about to happen.

As I watched, the pair became engulfed in a faint, rosy glow.  Unspoken words passed between them. Then I knew!

Eternal secrets of the centuries were passing as freely from one to the other as whispers on the wind.  From the youth sprang images fresh from heaven.  From the elder, elegant knowledge gleaned from one hundred and twenty eight years of Earthly existence.

Yes, he had found his successor.  The Ancient Ones were none the wiser as the pair wound their way through the desert past rocky mounds of freshly churned dirt and grass.

Methuseleh watched children file into the enclosure with great reverence.  He recognized many.  They looked like their parents in their own youth.   Near a boulder at the center, a ceremony was beginning.

“We wanted to take this one last opportunity,” began the Garden Master, pausing to wipe away tears, “ to share our tales of an unforgettable friend.”  Several guests sighed and smiled.  “Methuseleh…”

His head came up.  “Yes?”

“…left us today.  And how we will miss our beloved, ancient Tortoise!”