Not Friend

I believe, as someone said about other dinosaurs, that this guy is “about as smart as a board with a nail hammered through it.”

My first close encounter with one of these guys was in 1999 on I-70 around the exit for Rt94/Lisbon. I was in my little Honda Del Sol, saw this great big thing flopping out into the highway, jammed on my brakes and practically snatched it from under the bumper of a semi. Then, it started trying to kill me, with robotic, earnest, intent. I threw it on the ground, then popped the trunk, wrapped it in my trunk-blanket, and drove off – leaving the damn thing in a swamp near a certain golf course. I hoped it would eat a golfer. My hatred for golfers burns bright and hot.

The point is that, when it switched to “kill Marcus” mode, it was making a great deal of pretty scary effort. It was really serious.

My next encounter was 3 years later when my then-girlfriend found one wandering in the yard. She said “hey come see” and I started over there, just in time to see it take a wedge-shaped chunk out of her sneaker. I was just starting to yell “keep your distance!” but not fast enough.

This guy was wandering along my driveway in the rain yesterday when I took my walk. I took some pictures and got the hell away. The look it was giving me was really unsettling. Like, “I wanna fuck you up” and all I was doing was being nice.

Isn’t their camouflage amazing? They look like a floating piece of wood or crap. They act like crap, so it makes sense. There is a smallish marshy biome on my property, and I’m pretty sure that’s where it came from. But I did not take it back. I actually hate these things. Given their mindless viciousness I am pretty sure they are all republicans.

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Trunk blanket: one of those felt-filled moving blankets. I always have one in my trunk. I have slept in them, the winter night when me and 10 other cars were stuck on black ice near DuBois. I have wrapped dead animals in them, bringing my dogs home from their last trip to the vet. I have used them to put out fires. I have wrapped snapping turtles in them. I have collected the ruined corpses of road-killed cats in my trunk blanket, to bring them home for burial. I had sex in the rain on a median strip on trunk blanket, and that was pretty darned good. I am sure there are dozens of other trunk blanket adventures I could name but that’s probably enough. Oh – not all the same trunk blanket. There’s usually an old one, and a new one.

I’ve got a bunch of stuff on my plate so I don’t think I’ll be trying any involved writing for a bit. Which sucks because I totally want to write a piece explaining nuclear blackmail, and the Non-Proliferation Treaty. But that takes thought and care and right now I’m putting that into trying to weld the reinforcements onto a new dumpster lid (going very nicely!) and securing my studio. Someone has been unsubtly casing the joint and I have a bit of security work to do. It’s distracting me from dumpster lid, which is distracting me from forge body, which is blocking my path to propane feed, which is preventing me from seeing if the forge will burn at over 2600F.

I am also still scatter-brained. Things are not working 100% right, but the difference is minor. It’s almost funny. I went to the grocery store to get lemonade and came home with all the things (including oranges!) except lemonade. Then, I went to Lowes to get paint for the dumpster lid and came home with all the things except paint for the dumpster lid. My ability to translate short term memories into long/mid-term (I don’t think that we have only short and long. Normally I have a really crisp active cache that maintains a “to do” list that I forget as I knock items off) Anyhow, I’m not asking for pity. This is all really interesting to me.


  1. Tethys says

    That is probably a female snapper, who is looking for a nice spot to lay her eggs.

    They are as friendly as porcupines, and have a surprisingly long neck. If you keep your hands on the back part of their shell, you can safely pick them up and help get them across roads. They will hiss evil turtle curses at you and attempt to bite chunks out of you the whole time, but generally not dangerous unless you get too close to the beak.

  2. lochaber says

    those are a major reason I never felt comfortable swimming in freshwater on the east coast.

    Well, my anxieties/neuroticism played a large part, but I’ve also personally seen what captured specimens can do to “poking sticks”, so I don’t think my anxieties/neuroticism are completely unfounded (in this particular case, at least…)

    Tangentially, I also have strong feelings on stuff that should be included in vehicles (says the guy who never owned anything bigger than a motorcycle…), and a blanket is pretty high up there…

    I’m also very anti-golfer. It’s hard for me to imagine a more wealthy/priviliged past time, even if I had the energy to spare for it (and even if I did, I’d be putting that energy to better uses, uses that nobody cares about)

  3. says

    those are a major reason I never felt comfortable swimming in freshwater on the east coast.

    I enjoy swimming in the numerous lakes of the Adirondack Mountains. Once, I was swimming along the surface while wearing goggles so I could spy the fishes, and along the bottom I saw a large snapper. It was maybe 5 or 6 feet deep at that point, and, valuing my toes, I swam directly to shore some 100 yards away. Snapping turtles are aptly named.

  4. Rob Grigjanis says

    I actually hate these things. Given their mindless viciousness I am pretty sure they are all republicans.

    One difference between snappers and humans; a lot of humans go out of their way to kill things for fun. I suspect snappers just want to be left alone. Comparing them to republicans is grossly unfair to the turtles.

  5. says

    Rob Grigjanis@#4:
    Comparing them to republicans is grossly unfair to the turtles.

    True. In fact the process-server from the turtles just gave me a cease-and-desist and request for apology, which I hereby make.

  6. seachange says

    There is a wedding-dress designer on a huge boulevard near me with a high-walled and sunken (both) rectangular pond in front of it. It has lots of turtles and some ornamental fish. There are many huge signs on the insides of the walls warning people to not go down in there (this would take some work) they will get bitten. They look like regular old pet-turtles to me, they are prettier than your specimen?

    I don’t think I have seen turtles in California naturally.

  7. Matthew Currie says

    I used to swim a lot in a pond with big scary snappers, and they always seemed pretty uninterested in the water. Not that I cozied up to them or anything, but never worried too much. Out of water, they’re a different matter.

    I always leave the snow shovel in the car in spring, so that when I come across one on the road, I can get it out of harm’s way. For smaller ones, a field hockey stick works pretty well too, as long as you avoid the temptation of making a slap shot.

  8. Just an Organic Regular Expression says

    “came home with all the things except…”

    For many of us, we call that “Tuesday”. The answer is LISTS. To-do lists, yes, because so often you think of “that thing I oughta do”, but the intent that burned so bright in the moment fades, and two days later something will remind you of “that thing” again, and you realize, oh crap, you had the perfect time to do it, but didn’t, because brain. But you can get three warm fuzzies from using a list. First, when you think of it, and actually get up and walk over to your steno pad and write “Dat Thing” at the end of the list, and know that it’s down and you can stop trying to remember it (and suspecting you won’t). Second, when you are wondering what to do today and you look at the list and realize, oh, this is just the time for That Thing, how provident of me to have written it down. Third, when you come back and cross that fucker off as done.

    Shopping lists can be more transient but they are just as useful and satisfying. Standing in the checkout line you look at the list and have the satisfaction of seeing you got everything; or alternatively, realize you forgot the paint, but there is no need to beat yourself up about it because you haven’t checked out yet, just go get it. Either way, a little stress-relief burst of endorphins. Stop trying to be a brain hero and start writing lists.

  9. says

    @Just An Organic Regular Expression:
    Good point. Sharpie and post-it notes!

    Your point about it being a dopamine pump is well-taken and interesting. Forgetting things is a source of painful frustration.

  10. jrkrideau says

    @ 6 seachange
    If the turtle is about the mass of a border collie, or maybe a small Labrador and pretty ugly then you have an adult snapper. Stay away. They used to eat my uncle’s geese when I was a boy.

    Nobody in their right mind puts a snapper in an ornamental pond.

    I don’t know my turtles that well but if they are in an ornamental pond they are probably something like a painted turtle which is small and rather attractive.

    Come to think of it we must be getting close to hatching time. One of our parks, beside the lake/river (it’s complicated) stops all maintenance work for 2 or 3 weeks to be sure no hatchling gets hurt on its way to water.

  11. StevoR says

    I believe, as someone said about other dinosaurs, that this guy is “about as smart as a board with a nail hammered through it.”


    Those were a pretty varied bunch of pehistoric critters and whilst some probly were very dim there’s arguably a case – especially given how smart birds such as corvids are – that many of them were actually reasonably intelligent. See :


    Plus :

    As for the snapping trutle, yeah. Respect. Both for it and for how you handled it here. Well done.

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