on 5/09/06 as jerry and i were coming home from town w/ raven in the car w/ us, jerry suddenly stopped in the middle of our gravel road. he said, "hang on, i think i see something."
i hadn't noticed anything, so imagine how surprised i was when he got back in the car and handed me an alligator snapping turtle to hold "so we could show it to raven". yeah, it was just a little guy, but still!
as soon as we pulled in the drive and got raven out of the car seat, we had the little turtle down on the concrete so she could get a good look at him. she was decked out in her new tennis shoes, and after she studied it a little bit, she looked at me and said, "can i stomp 'im?"
i said, "NO, you can not stomp him!"
she thought a little bit and then said, "i stomp ants." (as if that was justifiction for stomping anything more!)
i said, "no, you can't stomp him. we're just going to look at him a little bit and then we're going to take him down to the water and let him go back to his mommy."
i could tell by the way she was stepping and dancing around that the urge to stomp on the little turtle was very strong, so i was ready to grab her up any moment to keep her from it.
to ensure the turtle's safety, i decided to sit down on the ground w/ raven and hold the turtle and point things out to her about the turtle. alligator snapping turtles are mean and dangerous as adults, but this little guy wasn't big enough to cause anyone harm . . . yet.
since raven had a 5-day old baby sister at home, we looked at the turtle's little nose, little mouth, the little sharp point on the mouth where they bite, little eyes, little legs, little claws (just like baby sister's fingernails . . . kinda). we talked about his little tail and how his shell was put together like little sections and how it provided protection from things (like getting stomped on by a toddler).
we looked at how he wrapped his tail up and tucked it under his shell and how he used his claws to help move him along while he was walking. we probably looked him over and watched him move around for about 20 minutes. it was so neat to see her fascination w/ all the little things . . . once we got past the urge to stomp it.
looking at the little turtle it was amazing how it is just put together like a little armoured tank. i know what the adults are like and what they look like. they are so strong and their necks are so long that if you pick one up by the tail, it can still reach around and bite you. once that vice-like jaw has you in its grip -- there is just about nothing you can do to get out of it unless it decides to let go.
this picture just gives you a true perspective of how little this turtle was. i have no idea how old it was, but it couldn't have been very old. i honestly can't believe that jerry saw it lying in the gravel road as we were driving, especially since mario andretti has nothing on jerry's driving. (disclaimer -- not that my driving is any calmer, but i wouldn't have seen a turtle this size in the road as i was traveling down a gravel road at the speed i normally drive!)
anyway, after our time of looking at the little turtle, we walked down to the culvert about 100 yards from the driveway and "let him go back to his mommy". raven cried b/c she wanted to keep him, but she understood that idea that he would want his mommy.
as we dropped him down in the water, jerry looked at me and said, "you're gonna be sorry some day that you let that little guy go." jerry has a deep hatred for turtles in general b/c some turtle ate his big fish he had on his stringer when he was little, so he does his best to eliminate their descendants to pay for the sins of those fish-eating/fish-stealing ancestors.
am i sorry for not killing the little guy? no, i have no need to wantonly kill nature -- that's not a part of who i am. but if i ever have a run-in with a mean SOB alligator snapping turtle some day -- you know jerry's not going to let me hear the end of it. he'll be sure that was the little guy that i could've killed years before but didn't b/c i "let him go back to his mommy".
this meeting was a great experience and a learning experience for all of us, but especially for raven. if we meet up w/ this turtle again, the outcome might not be so pleasant for all those involved!