Banging My Head on a Walnut But Catching A Turtle In the Process

Today was one of those days where everything seems stellar. The sun light
had that never ending clarity, where it seemed like it had always been daytime and night would never fall. People were in a great mood; strangers were laughing and smiling and greeting one another like old acquaintances. Kites were flying, and Barton Springs and Town Lake were dotted with canoes and kayaks. One kayak even had a dog (with life preserver!), a smallish golden retriever, standing tall and proud, kayaking with her owner. The Zilker Zephyr was jam packed with riders, horn blaring, “Here we come!”: kids on the playground waving while the train chugged by and a clown named Zippy in giant polka-dotted shoes made balloon animals, aliens and ladybugs from under the canopy of a large old tree. I swear, the day was embracing us all with such good cheer.

The girls and I went down to catch a turtle. We took a cardboard box,thus prepared when I grabbed one from the lake as our canoe sailed by. I’ve never taken the girls canoing by myself; usually, Lance and I share the rowing, but this time it was just me and one big paddle. The water was clear and cool and green. Giant old trees looked like whales as we floated over the tops of them, silent in their watery graveyards covered in slime and water weeds. The turtles were out in masse—covering branches and limbs, concrete slabs at the side of the waters, old stones…they were nature’s freckles, dotting the day. We had also brought bread, so the geese were coming up to our seven foot silver bullet of a boat, taking the bread directly from our hands.

I canoed for an hour. Let me say: I am now a master of turning a boat into a narrow wedge to reach for a turtle. I can make a canoe go backwards. A straight line? Ha. I could row one on my coffee break with my big toe! I
enjoyed the feel of braking with the paddle and feeling the water force the boat left or right. I’m hooked on canoes, although I’d really still like to have my own kayak.

Eventually, with the girls and I thinking a turtle wasn’t going to be caught, we decided to give it one more try…so, I shimmied the boat in between some low hanging branches, the girls holding their breath…about sixteen turtles, sunning, groggily and warily aware of my encroaching presence. All but two plopped into the water, some gracefully, some quite sloppy and in a hurry to escape. The two who were left were just the size we needed for our box. I allowed the paddle to skim the surface, turning the boat slowly, right up next to the exact limb I needed. I kept waiting for the two remaining turtles to exit the scene, but the larger of the two (we’ll call him “Gramps”…he was pretty ancient looking), well…he just stared at me with a “Go Ahead And Try” look, so I blew him off and reached for the smaller one. Holding the canoe in line, I just reached down and picked him up. Instantly, he was flailing his long claws at me, and as I was only holding on with my left hand (the paddle encased in my right), I was sure I’d drop him…but I didn’t! and the girls (in their life jackets) hollering, “Turtle! We caught a turtle! Get the box! The box!” and my youngest passing the box back to me and Speedy (the turtle’s new name thanks to my oldest’s quick thinking) found himself in a box.

He was quite angry about it, too, pulling into his shell immediately. I noticed Io had filled the box with bread bits at some point, so he didn’t stay angry too long.

We paddled back, parked the canoe, paid our fee and the lady at the attendance table says, “What’s in the box?” I gulped, “A turtle…”

So, we had to leave the turtle behind. Sad, but true. Not sad for the turtle, of course.

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