“The ill-tempered snapping turtle gets its name from its powerful jaws. They are very aggressive and should be considered extremely dangerous.” - Morning Journal News
I understand that I tend to get myself into situations that other moms don’t seem to get themselves into, and this is one of them: I just got abused by a giant snapping turtle. A big one. And I am shaking as I write this.
Here’s what happened: I was driving along the road with Ella to our house in bucolic suburbia – a suburbia that has a little too much wildlife for my taste. We saw an enormous turtle trying to cross the road – way bigger than a football. All green and slimy, a creepy prehistoric looking fucked-up old thing if you ask me. I had to swerve to not run over it. I would have just driven by it but Ella said, “Look! Mommy – it’s a turtle! He’s trying to cross the road!”
Sweet images of the tortoise and the hare entered my mind.
I made a U-turn and returned to the turtle because my nature-lover was in the backseat, and I occasionally have it in me to be quite a Good Samaritan. I pulled over and put my emergency lights on just as a big white truck pulled up behind me. He stopped and put his emergency lights on, too. Wasn’t nature marvelous? I went over to the cute turtle (who doesn’t love a turtle? have you ever heard of a mean one? I hadn’t. Beatrix Potter books said nothing about mean turtles).
I leaned over.
I put my nose right close up to it (are you wondering about my IQ because as I write this, I sure am). Poor little turtle!
I stupidly, OH SO STUPIDLY, reached my hands around both sides of its shell thinking I would just pick it up and walk it back over to the pond area where all the wild things live. I would bring it back to its home. Well holy shit if that-that-that thing, that rabid fucking wolf disguised as a wise old turtle didn’t OPEN AND CLOSE ITS FRIGHTENING JAWS (it snapped! I guess I know what snapping is, now!). IT MADE A CHOMPING SOUND. Okay? You know what this thing reminded me of? Linda Blair in The Exorcist, that’s who. Or something out of Alien. Where was this information in The Tortoise and the Hare? Weren’t we all rooting for the poor old tortoise?
The CHOMPING noise scared the living bejeezies out of me and I jumped, dropping the chomping Linda in the middle of the road on it’s back. It had claws, man. Big pointy claws! Ella was watching from the minivan (thank GOD I had her wait in the car! This thing could easily have taken her nose off!)
“The snapping turtle can be found in waters ranging from slow moving rivers to stagnate ponds. In reality it is very shy in the water and will retreat from anything except lunch. On land, however, when it feels threatened it will live up to its reputation by snapping and hissing while standing on all fours and rocking back and forth.” - Morning Journal News
Ella was saying, “Don’t hurt it, Mommy! You have to turn him over!”
The man in the truck still had his engine on idle, watching the spectacle of a stay-at-home mom in the middle of the road “helping” a vicious snapping turtle. So – as always, when things like this happen to me, like when I had the toilet paper hanging out of my mom-jeans at Reagan Airport in front of all those senators, or when I accidentally lined my eyes with red lipliner before an important meeting, or when I asked that farmer if you can milk a male cow, there was someone there to see me.
Other moms – if they do this kind of shit – do it in private, but I always somehow have to do it in public, to compulsively embarrass myself in front of witnesses.
I had to act fast because another car could come and I’d be stopping two lanes of traffic making a spectacle of myself instead of one, so I STUPIDLY reached over to grab the Linda thing again with my bare hands – doh! – and it LURCHED at me even though it was on it’s back. And it hissed at me. Yes, it hissed and it lurched. I am NOT a Bear Grylls type so I panicked – I jumped back and sort of helplessly flapped my hands like a beauty pageant queen might do when she starts talking about her granny who passed away last year from old age. I looked over at the man in the truck with the tinted windows – I couldn’t see him but I’ll bet he was in there having a good chuckle. I stopped flapping my hands.
Then it occurred to me that he might be an off-duty paramedic waiting to see if I lost a finger and then he would swoop in and rescue me. I don’t know.
Welcome to my suburban circus.
I tried to tip the turtle back onto it’s tummy again so it could RUN AT ME AND ATTACK ME WITH ITS JAWS, which is exactly what it did – holy shit! It RAN AT ME lurching and hissing and gulping! It leapt up onto my jeans and BIT my pants leg! All the while making this horrible prehistoric lurching sound.
I yelped. Or went, “Eeee!” or said, “Fuck!” or something. In front of my child.
I may have flapped my hands some more. I don’t know – it’s all a blur.
From the minivan, Ella was now on my side: “Don’t let the turtle hurt you, Mommy! GET HIM OFF YOUR LEG, MOMMY!”
“No worries!” I said brightly, trying to keep things light, using my sing-song voice! “Mommy’s got the upper hand! It’s just a TURTLE!”
I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking what my husband would be thinking: Why didn’t you just leave it in the middle of the road to get run over by someone else’s minivan? I considered it – I really did – but the problem was my nature girl – the one who thinks swatting a mosquito is murder. She was watching, so I had to do something. I couldn’t just flipping leave it there, much as I would have enjoyed it.
I tried once more to use my foot to move it out of the road and over to the pond area. This time, Linda was ready for me – it lurched and jumped onto my jeans again, and hung on, just below my knee. I reactively kicked my leg AND THE TURTLE DID NOT COME OFF. I may have twirled around in a comical effort to get it off me, Ella shouting: “Oh mommy! Oh, no!” in the background. The man in the truck chuckling – or, God forbid – videoing me with his iPhone for America’s Funniest Videos. Maybe Linda and I are up on YouTube right now being laughed at by truck man’s relatives…
Then I kicked my leg hard and the turtle went flying a few feet back in the direction of the pond.
I was shaking. I am not a nature person, not by any stretch of anyone’s imagination. That little five-minutes of playing Good Samaritan to Mother Earth really messed with my charitable side.
I turned around and faced the road – and to show truck man that I had the upper hand I sort of dusted off my hands rather dramatically. I’m pretty sure this made me look even more kooky than I did in the first place but I’m not going to dwell on that now. At the very least, I had put the turtle back where God intended it to be, in the bushes at the edge of the sludge hole where it could lay in wait for another unsuspecting suburban mom to come by.
I jogged to the car. Visibly shaking.
Not. A. Nature. Person.
“Mommy! Are you okay? Did the turtle bite you?” asked Ella, who looked like she was about to cry.
“I’m great!” I said, much too brightly. “It was only a turtle!”
So much for being a Good Samaritan! I had traumatized my child, and within a five minute period I’d instilled in us both what is sure to be a lifelong fear of turtles. And ponds. Pond-o-phobia.
Thank GOD I wore my jeans and my sturdy Ugg boots! – not my flip flops like I was about to do! I swear to God that thing would’ve taken off my toe! Watch this video of Bear Grylls with a snapping turtle to get an idea of the size and ferocity of Linda. And the video below shows Rolf, the peculiar snapping turtle lover, showing the proper way to rescue a man-eating turtle when it’s crossing the road. But take my advice: don’t.
This post is dedicated to the memory of Maurice Sendak, beloved author of Where the Wild Things Are, who passed away on May 8th, 2012 as I was writing this post. I find it very odd that I had chosen the title of this post before I knew he had passed away. Mr. Sendak has always been a part of my world – Where The Wild Things Are played a big, big part in my childhood imagination. We love you, Mr. Sendak. You will live forever in the hearts of children, and in mine. Hope you’re having a wild rumpus wherever the wild things are.