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Ozarks Life: Lettuce the Turtle is an online inspiration

For 25-years, Lettuce has returned to the same Christian County garden.
Published: Jul. 2, 2021 at 9:50 AM CDT
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NIXA, Mo. (KY3) - Inspiration can come from anywhere. For us in the Ozarks, all we have to do is look out the backdoor.

There’s a garden in Christian County whose vibrant color rivals that of a child’s box of 64 crayons.

Cheryl Campbell has liatris, lilies, and... Lettuce.

“We kind of look at it as a family member,” Campbell said about the box turtle.

Lettuce has been visiting Cheryl every spring for 25-straight years.

The turtle’s shell is like a passport. It’s stamped with Band-Aids. Each one represents a different year of being in the Campbell garden. Some have fallen off over time but Cheryl knows this is the same turtle.

Cheryl’s husband Bill came up with the Band-Aid idea after having to tell their son, Tyler, he couldn’t keep the wild box turtle in a box.

“(Bill) told him that we would put a Band-Aid on the turtles’ back,” Cheryl recalls, “and when it came back next year we’d know it was our turtle. I was rolling my eyes. We shouldn’t tell him stuff like that.”

“The next year, around Mother’s Day, I was working in the flower beds and this turtle came walking out and had a Pikachu Band-Aid on its back.”

Each year Lettuce showed back up. And each year a new Band-Aid was placed. Recently video of Lettuce was placed online.

“She’s a big deal,” Cheryl joked.

The Ozarks has its own social media star thank to Cheryl sharing the life of Lettuce on Facebook.

“I just think during COVID there were more followers,” Cheryl said. “Before she showed up, (friends) would ask both of my sons, ‘has your mom’s turtle come back? Is Lettuce back?”

In recent years, Cheryl has seen amazing moments like Lettuce laying eggs. And there’s been some scary moments as well.

“Last year, somehow, she got down off this wall and got in the pool,” Cheryl said.

But why is a box turtle so captivating for so many?

“Why, I think it’s just a feel-good story,” Cheryl said.

And maybe it’s because many can relate to Lettuce. She has a strong exterior protecting what’s inside.

“She was probably one of the first normal things that happened after my husband died 12-years ago,” Cheryl said. “She came out on Mother’s Day.”

Bill built a little spot for him and Cheryl to sit in their garden. It was their spot. And for 25-years, that’s the spot Lettuce still goes to for her daily serving of fruit.

We can all take a lesson from Lettuce to enjoy the present, like the old fairy tale goes, slow and steady wins the race.

“She’s so slow and methodical to her journey and goals,” Cheryl said.

“She doesn’t stop. She just keeps going. And I look at that with my own life. We just have to keep going no matter what happens in our lives. We keep moving forward.”

Cheryl’s husband was Dr. Bill Campbell who died while on vacation in 2009. He had an office in Nixa for over two decades and built the Crimson Plaza on Highway 14.

Today their son Tyler is in his twenties and wants to follow in his dad’s footsteps and join the medical field.

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