A Beastie!


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“Making Her Way”   www.melissabluefineartandgardendesign.com

 

When I was a kid my family lived on a small lake.  The station for the train that took my dad into Chicago for work was at the far corner of that little lake. He could walk the half mile down our road, or he could have me paddle him across in the canoe.  🙂

He paid me a nominal amount, but by far the glee of our twice daily trips were the best wages I could have asked for.  He is the one who arranged for camping trips in the mountains, trips to Yellowstone, etc.  He sat on the end of the dock with me, regaling me with stories as our fishing poles lay forgotten beside us.  Back then, it seemed like every morning brought a new and exciting discovery.  The grass would swish, and there would be a SNAKE!  Gazing into the water I’d see schools of bullhead, or sunfish, or fat tadpoles.  Mid-summer would bring baby painted turtles perched on lily-pads~ it was paradise.  And so, over time, those canoe trips would become show-and-tell times.  All day I would be prowling the shoreline for new treasure to tell him about.

One afternoon I came across a turtle the likes of which I had never seen before.  It sat there hissing at me, with its hooked mouth agape.  Dragon spikes marched down it’s shell and tail.  Wow! Who knew things like this existed? Dad had to see this!  Cautiously I picked it up.  As alligator snapping turtles go, this wasn’t a huge one but still.  I got it into the canoe and paddled across, waiting for the train.  What I failed to realize was that summer was ending, and days were getting shorter.  So, by the time the train came and my dad climbed down the embankment and settled into the canoe, the light had quite faded.  Turtle forgotten, we swapped tales as is our wont.  After a bit, when we had fallen silent, there was a scratching sound on the bottom of the boat.  My dad, cautiously,”…..what is that?”  Me: “…..OH!  Well, there is this enormous turtle I found…”  Instantly we both had our feet up out of turtle range.  To this day we laugh about that turtle.

There is something so epic about these turtles that I’ve always wanted to paint one.  Isn’t she ancient and terrifying to look at?  And yet, can you see her vulnerability?  It is hard to know how to respond to nature, especially if it isn’t furry with big eyes.  I’ve seen kids take sticks to these creatures, and biologists dispatch them into jars of formaldehyde.  I think we are all searching for a way of knowing that we have forgotten.

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12 thoughts on “A Beastie!

  1. Jim in IA says:

    That’s a funny and great story. I will share it with my grand-daughter. She has visited some folks near her who raise snapping turtles as a business.

    When I was a kid, we lived in western IL on a flat flat flat farm. A stream of pond was not within 5 miles of our house. One day, while playing in a puddle of water in the ditch, we came across a snapper a foot across. Of course we had to play with it. It could snap a 1″ stick in two. We let it go back to the ditch. I wonder where it went.

    I like that painting.

  2. melissabluefineart says:

    Ah, Jim, exactly! Weren’t you just thrilled to come across that snapper, right where you’d least expect to? There is yet wonder, in the world. I’m so glad you like the painting 🙂

  3. Steve Gingold says:

    That’s a great story, Melissa. And fortune smiled on you that the snapper didn’t snap anything.
    I was walking by a pond near here this morning when a huge snapper almost surfaced. I was looking for bullfrogs and noticed the large body in the greenish water. The horny shell broke the surface and the turtle eyed me for a few seconds before deciding to look for more private waters. Last year I got to watch a mama laying eggs while visiting Acadia N.P. in Maine. They are pretty much expressionless, but she did have what appeared to be a determined look on her face.
    I love the colors you’ve used. Snappers are generally not pretty but yours is. 😀

  4. melissabluefineart says:

    Haha! Thanks, Steve! I know they really aren’t that pretty, but I couldn’t help myself.
    You have had some very cool encounters with them. I have been fortunate. A friend of mine was monitoring butterflies in a wet area, and stopped to catch her breath. She thought she was standing on a large rock in a stream, until the rock bit off her boot! She was also lucky, as her foot was uninjured.

    • Steve Gingold says:

      I’ve always worried about that when I step in the water. Snappers for my own well being but also concern for smaller turtles and frogs, caddisflies, dragon/damselfly larvae…its’ tough to walk anywhere without causing havoc..

  5. melissabluefineart says:

    Oh, I know just what you mean. Often when I am in a group moving through a prairie remnant we cringe at what we’re stepping on. We remind each other there used to be herds of bison stomping through, but still.

  6. Coral Cottage Kim says:

    Such a wonderful story. I hope you know what joy you give to others with your art, your story telling and your kind beautiful soul. I’m glad nothing got snapped.

    My cousins and I had a lovely snapper encounter in our youth, until it snapped the shovel handle in half and we had to explain to our parents how it happened and why we had a very large snapping turtle inside the wheel barrow. Such good memories, thanks for bringing that back to me.

  7. melissabluefineart says:

    Kim, thank you sooo much for your comment. I’ve been down with the flu and your words coming through the dark ether beamed a light to me!
    I can just picture the scene: you and your cousins, a very large snapping turtle, a wheelbarrow, and a snapped shovel handle. You’ve got me chuckling (cautiously)

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