Fast track …

May 28, 2009 § 14 Comments

My grandfather, Pop, was a woodsman before he went to work in Washington and he used to tell us stories about his adventures in the North Woods ( a term he used to describe both upstate New York and Canada.)  One of his hunting tails included a Native American friend , Tim, who hunted with Pop sometimes.  Tim was the best scout and hunter in the territory. His eyesight was unfailing.  He could see for miles; could spot a bird, a rabbit, a deer  from hills away. Pop explained Tim’s talent: “It was that he knew what didn’t belong there.”  He’d spot something that was out of place from the usual familiarity of the terrain he knew so well.

I get that. It happened the other day on the way to work. I rounded a corner and pointed the car up the hill. I’ve been going that way for years. I know the land on the way up the hill, the few houses there, the open field that slopes to the creek and the woods on the right. Some mornings, I am extremely lucky and looking down onto the field can see deer, sometimes 6 or 7 of them, grazing. They are so darn blase, and comfortable. I’m glad they’re comfortable.

But on this particular morning. as I started up the hill, something caught my eye, something brown and in a few seconds and after driving about 50 feet, I looked in the rearview mirror and could see the brown thing there by the side of the road. I knew it didn’t belong there.  What was it? I had to see.  I pulled over and let the car roll backwards slowly down the hill ’til I was next to it. I leaned across the passenger seat to look through the window. Turtle. No, TURTLE!  What? A huge honking thing. What, was he stuck on a piece of wood or something?

I grabbed my camera. I was already late for work. Might as well capture some wildlife here in the midst of suburbia. I walked slowly around the car ’til i could see him. But, how could you miss him? This terrapin was big enough to pull a Red Flyer wagon. And where I thought he was standing or caught on something? It was his LEGS! Geez, the guy was huge. Honestly, he shell was no less than 18 inches long. Just his shell.


I didn’t want to get too close because I wanted a picture of him with his head sticking out. OK, I didn’t want to get too close becasue maybe this was some hellbent ninja turtle that could easily bite. Apparenlty he’s had great success in biting and eating something.  Hey, I am respectful of others, including turtles whose feet-claws are nearly as big as my own hands. And the tail? I suspected that he could whip it around like a weapon.  So I stayed back, dressed in my little go-to-work suit and he stayed there, dressed in his handsome shell and I heard cars going by, slowing to see what was going on but we ignored everything during our mutual picture session.

He stayed there patiently, eyeing me (I think) as I snapped several pictures.


And then I wished him a good day and flipped the lens cap back on my camera and got in my car and headed to the office.  Yes, we went at different speeds, Mr. Turtell and I, but I suspect, I hope,  he got where he was going, possibly, as they say, before I did.

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§ 14 Responses to Fast track …

  • We have those from time to time. They’re really remarkable creatures.

  • laylou says:

    the joys of living in suburbia.
    What a cool looking turtle.
    And his name, Mr. Turtell. Quite nice =)

  • jeanie says:

    That’s a great photo! (Both) I’ve never seen one like that. Loved that — the art of knowing what is not there. Or is there that shouldn’t be. That’s rather perfect.

    Welcome back to blogland!

  • qugrainne says:

    Well how cool is that!? The only things I ever see on the side of the road are dead raccoons. Geez.

  • ds says:

    Mr. Turtell (love it!) definitely trumps a frog. Those are actual talons! Is he a snapper looking for new territory? And the expression–he’s practically leering at you (c’mere, little girl…). Wow. You are some tracker.

  • oh says:

    Jen, this creature is a far cry from the little turtles we always wanted as “pets” when we were little, though we ended up, thank goodness, with a dachshund instead!

    Laylou, it reminds me of a joke, which I’d certainly mess up about mr. Turtell and Mr. Rabbit. (you have to accent the second syllable on both when pronouncing).

    Jeanie – I should have put a paper clip in the picture to give an idea of size! Actually, I htought about using something in my car – a pen, my glasses – hey, my purse would have been good. But then, he would have retracted…I’ve been watching for him since.

  • oh says:

    Q – LOL! (your comment about roadside animalsl)…bet you’re seeing all kinds of things on you trip, though.

    DS – a snapper? aha! I don’t know my turtles but I’d guess this one could do some serious snapping. I will keep my eye out for other creatures that co-habit here in the ‘burbs.

    • ds says:

      I only guessed a snapper because I think I saw one once, making his way upriver–and against the current–in that reservation I like to walk around. The head was shaped the same way and the flippers/legs/paddles were huge. He was moving quite slowly, but it was creepy…Thanks for the comment you left at my place; I have fixed the confusing bit & appreciate your bringing it up (moral: presumption does NOT equal precision). Enjoy your weekend!

  • I love that kind of wildlife encounter. Nice post

  • shoreacres says:

    It must be the season for turtles to be out and about, doing their turtle business. I was delighted to find my little Doro on the levee, but THIS is a turtle. How wonderful that he was willing to pose for his photo – happy or not.

    I don’t know species, but I’d be willing to bet on a snapping turtle. Those are substantial-looking jaws. Combine them with an attitude and there could be trouble!

  • oh says:

    CGP – It was sheer luck, that encounter, and it made my day shine!

    Shore – Aha! the proverbial snapping turtle! Well, I’m glad we stared at one another, I probably far more amazed than he. I do watch for him now, knowing he’s about.

  • Lys says:

    looks like a snapping turtle! those things are nasty and extremely fast…i’ve seen videos of them snapping pigeons from the side of ponds. lucky you got a picture!

  • irishramblings says:

    Definitely a snapper. Looks to be a common snapper and not an alligator snapper.
    I ran across them all the time growing up on a farm.
    They are most certainly a dangerous and ill-tempered turtle. If you get close, they are not one to hide in their shell. They are quick to strike/try to bite you and slow to let go.

    I remember once when I was but a young lad, a neighbor of ours pulled into the driveway in his white pickup truck and called us kids over. In the back of his truck lurked a most prehistoric looking turtle. He had managed to capture a giant alligator snapping turtle. I mean, this thing was HUGE. Bigger than most small-medium dogs and certainly big enough to ride, which we kids promptly asked to be allowed to do. He indicated that that probably would not be the best idea.
    When you think of a turtle you think “slow”. Apparently this turtle had never heard that because as soon as anything was in his line of sight, he would lunge and snap and hiss with a speed that belied his size. A good size stick was placed in front of him and he deftly snapped in twain with his powerful jaws.

    Our neighbor then said he was going to town to have lunch at Ponderosa and would be back in an hour and we could watch him take the giant beast out of the back of his truck.
    Well, he came back a few hours later, sans turtle. He indicated to us that he had gone in to eat for a span of no more than 40 minutes and when he had come back out the snapper was gone. He must have escaped.

    I like to believe that the turtle was not in the mood for Ponderosa and instead had climbed out of the back of the truck and went to Pizza Hut instead.

    Alligator Snapping Turtle

    • oh says:

      Dear Irish, Thanks! phew, I’m glad I used a zoom lens rather than dithering around in this turtle’s path! I figured you didn’t get that big by being shy.

      Your story was great. It’s interesting that we so rarely see them if indeed the turtle family is thought to be so darn slow. I mean, how did that turtle get out of the truck without some savvy reporter being around to write about it? Kinda weird the way they get around unseen.

      Thanks for stopping by – excellent stuff you shared!

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