Rommel pushed his way through the blockade, powered up the hill and was on his way to freedom.
This wasn’t a North African campaign of the Desert Fox, but rather the escapades of a runaway reptile by the same name Tuesday afternoon in Washington.
Rommel, a Sulcata or African spurred tortoise, managed to break out of his outdoor enclosure on Stafford Street and wander several blocks until he was found by the Pier family on Ninth.
His owner, Chip Spisak, said he put the roughly 4-year-old adventurer-to-be in his fenced-in pen and went to do some work in his basement.
When Spisak returned a few hours later, Rommel had run off.
“Tortoises are like tanks — they can just push on things until they give, and he did,” Spisak said. “He pushed a hole in the fence and got out.”
The tortoise’s tank-like nature and North African origins were the reason for the name, Spisak said.
He said he’s had Rommel for about a year, having gotten him from a tortoise rescue.
Spisak said he looked around his property, but couldn’t find his four-legged friend.
His first thought was to make fliers and start posting them around the neighborhood.
His neighbors started looking around for the roughly 13-inch long, 25-pound tortoise.
It was neighbor Yvonne Haddox who first discovered where Rommel had gone after checking Facebook.
Lacie Pier said her sons found Rommel at around 3 p.m. She called The Missourian. The newspaper posted photos of the tortoise and a contact number for Pier on its website and Facebook page.
Pier said her sons fed Rommel lots of cauliflower during his brief stay until Spisak picked him up and brought him home.
Spisak said he was glad to find his missing pet.
“When I didn’t find him in the yard, I knew somebody had to have picked him up,” he said.
“I got so many phone calls, some just to wish me luck or trying to help out (with finding Rommel),” Spisak said. “This town has got a lot of nice people.”
Rommel had to stay indoors after he came home so Spisak could repair his enclosure.
Indoors, Rommel stays in a sunroom, equipped with a heat lamp.
He needs to be kept in temperatures of 70 degrees or higher, Spisak said.
Eventually, Spisak will likely need a bigger enclosure, both indoors and out.
Sulcata tortoises can grow to be 24 to 36 inches long and can weigh 100 to 200 pounds.
Those of Rommel’s species are vegetarians. Spisak said he feeds Rommel kale, other greens and exotic pet food.
As pets, the tortoises can require a lot of care, he said.
“It is work to take care of him, but he’s goofy and makes me laugh. He’s part of the family,” Spisak said.
“It really is a relief to know he’s back and he’s safe,” he said.