Downtown Newmarket was so busy for Canada Day that I had to drop off my wife and kids and go hunting for a parking spot. I elected to park at The Town Of Newmarket building and walk through Fairy Lake to get to Main Street. I didn’t get very far before I saw the turtle.
He shell must have been two feet in diameter and it looked like he was dead. From where I stood, it looked like his head was tilted to the side and his tongue hanging out in an almost cartoonish depiction of death. A pair of girls came by and one of them had a bottle of water. As she poured it over this poor creature, it seemed to come to life, like those speeded up videos of a flower blooming. It didn’t take long for a crowd to form.
No one, save myself, knew what to do. This guy (I insisted on referring to him as male) looked to be a snapping turtle and if the internet has taught us anything, it’s that snapping turtles are deceptive. Those jaws can snap two by fours like twigs and would make short work of finger bones.
“Alright,” I said. “Enough of this.”
I dropped my backpack, phone, and umbrella. I searched my backpack, looking for a pair of gloves. Didn’t have any but I did have a first aid kit, which would come in handy if the internet told the truth about these fearsome beasts.
A new bystander was brave enough to make physical contact and he didn’t react. So, I took it further and touched it all over, trying to get it accustomed to me and to gauge his reactions to my touch.
Looking at his tail, it struck me how prehistoric it looked. It really did look like a dinosaur’s tail, long and scaly and spiky.
After saying an internal ‘aw, fuck it’ I grabbed my man by the shell and trotted him to the river via a beaten path I could only assume he had beat in the first place.
I made it to the rivers edge without incident. No issues. Then he began to thrash. And, yeah, they really can almost reach their head around to their own tail. Anyone who relates slow movement to a turtle hasn’t ever grabbed a snapping turtle by the shell. This big bastard was fast.
What I had intended to be a gentle release into the river, something that would make Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom proud, turned out to be a clumsy, upside down toss into the water. I watched as he figured himself and went back to swimming.
Everyone on the path was happy. We did our good deed for the day. I thanked the girl for sacrificing her bottle of water and said, “You know what? I bet this is how Steve Irwin felt every day of his life.”
I walked fast to meet up with the family. They’d be wondering what was taking me, I was betting. I tried to get ahead of the two young girls, conscious they might be worried about the creepy old guy with the old backpack and the umbrella.
“This would make a great blog post,” I thought. Then, on the heels of that. “Damnit. No pictures. No one will believe me.”
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