Saturday afternoon a maroon 1993 Pontiac that had definitely seen better days pulled up in our driveway. A minute later our doorbell rang. My mother answered the door, spoke for a moment or two then the car drove back down our driveway, stopping near the road. A 30 year old white guy gets out, climbs our fence and stands there, looking at our pond.
What the hell is he doing, I'm wondering. My bedroom faces the street and anytime I'm at my computer or reading I've got a perfect view of all the goings on out in front. I was on the computer doing something pointless, probably chatting with Diana or commenting on Jerusha's odor or maybe answering Brenda's bird question and all I had to do was to shift my gaze a bit to observe this guy. My mother stopped by my room and told me that this guy wanted to catch a turtle for his daughter and noticed that we had a lot of them in our pond. Might he have one for his very own if he could catch it? Always one to help others in need, she said of course he could, take as many as you want. We have probably three or four dozen and one or two, or even half a dozen would hardly be missed.
This information made the guy quite happy and he was currently inspecting our pond to determine the best way to accomplish his mission. Now, our pond is a rough circle, perhaps 100 feet across at the most. There are no trees around it, no vegetation on the immediate shore near the water. Cows have trampled the shoreline and the water is surrounded by a ring of mud. In short, there's basically nowhere for the turtles to hide. You can see them all along the shoreline, often lined up like a row of little soldiers. But they can hide in the water because the water is muddy. All of the time. It never clears up. Never.
Apparently this guy was a genius. Either that or he had no experience whatsoever with amphibious turtles. Or perhaps he was a first class turtle whisperer and the turtles on our property just happen to be poor, uneducated, white trash turtles that didn't know the proper way to respond to turtle whispering. Whichever of these is true, apparently he was of the opinion that you just walk up to one of these turtles as it is sunning on the shore, pick it up, and voila! A present for your daughter. And this is exactly what he proceeded to do. He walked over to the first turtle he saw and guess what he did? Yep. He watched the turtle crawl into the water and swim away. And the second turtle. And the third turtle. And the one after that and the one after that.
This guy walked all the way around the pond trying to get close enough to a turtle to grab it. For those of you that might have no experience with these water turtles, it is a wholly different experience than you might have with a tortoise. The tortoise stays on land, moves extremely slow and they're easy to catch. Water turtles probably crawl slowly but at the first hint of mischief, they get into the water and quickly swim away or submerge. You cannot get anywhere near close enough to grab them. I ask you this, how many of your friends have you known that ever caught a water turtle and kept it as a pet? None of mine did.
After about 10 minutes of this non turtle catching, a fat black lady and a three year old child got out of the car to help. They helped by standing in the shade of a tree as the guy took off his shirt and walked into the pond. For the next hour or so he walked around the pond, walked through the edge of the pond, then out in the middle of the pond where the water was neck deep, apparently trying to catch a swimming turtle with his hands. The lady and the child continued helping by standing in the shade. Then the lady and the child helped out even more by getting in the car and leaving. They left him. The guy was still down there, sometimes in the pond, sometimes on the bank, sometimes submerged up to his neck. I got tired of watching him and continued my pointless computering, glancing out the window every once in awhile just to see if he was floating on the surface face down and I might need to think about dialing 911. I don't know when he left but he must have because at last he was gone.
And how was our turtle population, you may be wondering. Had it dwindled? Apparently it was just fine because he returned late Saturday evening with a new and updated master plan. He was still desirous of acquiring a turtle for his daughter and was now much better prepared to do so. He had gone to Wal-Mart and in their turtle capturing department he had found and purchased the newest and most highly sophisticated turtle retainment device known to man. Some of you commoners may know it by another term, a fishing net. Anyway, turtle boy was back for another try. And his apparent wife and child were also back, eager to assist once again.
Turtle boy had a master plan all right and, at first glance, it may have seemed a good one. Right off the bat however, I spotted one glaring fault with his logic. His capture device had a handle on it that was a mere 3 feet long. I've never been able to get within 10 feet of a pond turtle before they splash into the water and swim off. Usually they jump into the water if you get within 30 or 40 feet of them. But I humored turtle boy by observing him through the window for a few minutes as he made the attempt. I thought for a moment I might be witnessing something rather humorous and briefly contemplated getting out the video camera but finally decided against it.
Turtle boy climbed the fence once again and stealthily approached the first turtle. It cooperated fully by crawling in the water and swimming off. As did the next one and the next. Eager to assist in capturing one of these sneaky little beasts, his wife and child climbed over the fence and helped out by standing next to the pond, watching. This was, as you might imagine, a great morale boost to turtle boy because he kept up his efforts until the darkness closed in and defeated his efforts, crushing his dreams for another day. This time he must've been out there for an entire 20 minutes or so, valiantly fighting off heat, floating cow turds, mosquitoes, exhaustion and members of the local Al Qaida chapter, all in his efforts to gain favor in his daughter's eyes. He knocked on our door, politely informing us that it was now too dark for his animal relocation efforts to be successful. By any chance, might we be willing to let him try again the following morning? But of course. Knock yourself out.
No way was he going to show back up. He was going to go home, drink some beer, munch on some chips, drink some beer, eat a frozen Mexican dinner, drink some beer, watch Saturday Night Live, drink some beer and go to bed. That was the last we were going to see of him. Turtles would be the last thing on his mind in the morning.
True to his word, he showed up bright and early Sunday morning at 12:45, eager to snatch his quarry. What sort of guy were we dealing with? Was he a mere mortal or something else entirely? Would nothing stop this man? Was there any thing short of a nuclear holocaust that would deter him from his turtleknapping quest? Whatever department he may be lacking in, whatever hidden faults lay beneath the surface, I'll say this for him, turtle boy was one persistent little dude. Ladies and gentlemen, in times of strife this is the caliber of man that America is capable of producing and it would be a better world indeed if we could all manage to acquire just a little bit of this man's perseverance.
During the night he must have called a team meeting, sought input and ideas from the best and brightest in the field, incorporated these ideas into his master plan, and refocused because he was now better prepared to handle the delicate situation before him. Displaying a keen sense of ingenuity, Turtle boy had fabricated, completely from scratch, a wondrous new update for his turtle retainment device. It now sported a 4 foot long piece of broomstick clamped onto the 3 foot long handle of the fishnet. Yes indeed. Turtle boy now had 7 glorious feet to work with! With equipment such as this, painstakingly produced using the latest cad cam software and computerized manufacturing processes, how could he fail? Success was virtually guaranteed.
And he had brought forth reinforcements. He was no dummy. Apparently his wife and child had been too much help for him to handle because they were nowhere to be seen. In the car with turtle boy was a dude. And a sweet looking dude he was. A shoulder length mullet, droopy mustache, stained baseball hat, sleeveless T shirt, pair of shorts and tennis shoes with no socks completed his wardrobe. Who knew turtle boy circulated among society's elite? Who knew he counted among his friends such fine, distinguished gentlemen like this? This gentleman proved to be vastly superior in the help department than his wife and child had been. This guy had initiative. He went so far as to pull the new and improved turtle retainment device out of the car and put it exactly where it would do the most good, directly into turtle boys grasp. Then, all turtle boy had to do was to step over to the edge of the driveway, reach over the fence and dip a turtle out of the pond.
Alas, it was not to be. If only life were that simple. There happened to be at that moment, exactly no turtles within reach. Turtle boy was once more forced to expend his energy climbing over the fence to stand at the edge of the pond in awe and wonderment. Even with his extra 4 feet, still the turtles would not cooperate. He was not able to approach any of them closely enough to make the snatch. Then a light bulb appeared over his head as he hatched a wonderful and bold new idea. He removed his shirt, displaying a physically fit abdomen only Budweiser or perhaps Pabst Blue Ribbon is capable of producing, and waded into the water.
First he tried approaching turtles floating on the surface of the water. It was no deal. They were much too wily for him. They simply jerked their heads under water and swam off. Swiftly adapting to the situation, turtle boy now switched tactics, going for the Hail Mary. Approaching a turtle on the surface, of course it would disappear under water then turtle boy would vigorously wave his net back and forth under water near where the turtle had been, all in an attempt to catch it as it swam away. I found this amusing to watch at first but I soon grew tired of this spectacle and turned my attention back to my computer. This proved to be the worst mistake I made all day because I missed the exciting moment when all of the stars aligned and turtle boy made his capture.
Huh? He actually managed to do it? He caught one? Such flailing about underwater actually produced tangible results? Darn right they did.
One moment he was waving his net back and forth under water, the next moment turtle boy was exiting the pond, holding his turtle retainment device high in the air for all to see, a smug look of satisfaction and pride on his face. Lo and behold, retained in the device was what seemed to be an honest to goodness turtle, of what proportions I can only estimate. I had a clear view, it was a bright sunny day and the distance was approximately 200 feet but I would guesstimate its size to be slightly smaller than that of a CD in diameter. It was of no matter however. A promise to a daughter is a promise. And a turtle is a turtle is a turtle. One of them is just as good as any other. Turtle boy was one happy little camper. He had informed my mother that he had been searching for his quarry for three weeks now with no visible results. And here, in the space of a day and a half, he had not only located dozens of them but he had one of his very own in his possession at this very moment.
Turtle boy and his accomplice celebrated briefly, placed the animal in his vehicle and promptly left, presumably to present the little critter to his daughter. May God watch over you in your travels, turtle boy. Such dedication to your family is a thing of admiration that we should all strive for.
In hindsight, I suppose that we could have informed turtle boy that we sometimes feed the turtles and that all you have to do is to throw out a couple pieces of bread or some dry dog food and in a minute or two they would all be congregated around the food, happily nibbling away. But if we had done so, turtle boy may have made the capture and then been off and on his way in a matter of minutes. How much fun would that be? The entertainment value would have been lost completely. And who would want that?