I drove my loop to pick up cowbirds this morning. I visited the largest provider first as I had only 3 ice chests. Arrived and found a note on the door of the shed where the freezer was apologizing to me for not being able to meet me as they had to run into town, but for me to just go ahead and get the birds from the freezer. The problem was they forgot to unlock the shed for me! The next two stops went on as usual and I picked up around 320 birds.
On one of the properties, as I was talking with the owner, there were about 10 Eastern Kingbirds "trilling" in his still bare pecan trees. I mentioned that to him him and he said , yes that he knew them well, and that they nested on his property AND they appeared just this very morning for the first time this spring ! He was quite happy to have them back.
As I returned back toward La Grange on "Interstate" 71, I noticed a huge Snapping Turtle heading out on to the highway. I knew it would be dead meat if it went more than a few more yards out on to this death trap. So I pulled the truck over as quickly as I could which, was still a good 60-70 yards down the road, turned on the blinkers, and backed up at least 20-30 yards but saw the turtle making quick headway out toward the traffic. Fearing the worst happening before my eyes, I jumped out of the truck, grabbed a sharp-shooter shovel out of the bed and raced as fast as I could back toward the turtle. A guy in a semi honked at me. I stopped the turtle, which withdrew into it's shell somewhat and by distracting it with the handle of the shovel, was able to grab it's long tail and start walking back to the truck with this snapping, hissing, kicking animal held out as far as I could hold it from my body. Not an easy feat as she likely weighed 20-25 pounds I would guess....Try holding that much weight with an out stretched arm for very long. She was like holding a cinder block out there, but she was pissed and snapping and I was too afraid of those jaws to bring her in much closer.
He wanted for me to put it back on the gravel and show how I caught it. So I put it on the shoulder of the road behind my truck. Meanwhile a smaller white car with another chubby guy stops to see what's going on.
I just figured the young guy, I think his name was Damon or Darin, just wanted to pull out a little digital camera for a few shots but then I turn around and there is this guy setting up a freaking tripod and little movie camera with this like big shade around the lens!! Then he told the girls to move back so their shadows were not in the way. He piddled around a bit with buttons and dials and what-not on his camera and then said can you catch it again now? I said Ok and I put the shovel handle to the the front of the turtle to distract it . The turtle lunged at the handle and I grabbed it's tail...No big deal, but the shrieks and the "OH MY GAWDs" were just incredible.. One would have thought these girls were looking at a compound bone fracture or something.
Just as I was lifting the animal the girl with the purple hair got her shadow on the turtle and the young guy got really pissed about that. He apologized and asked me PLEASE to do it again. By now the turtle was played out and pretty much had given up on trying to bite or intimidate anything. But finally it did manage one more half-assed lunge at the handle and I grabbed it's tail again. "OH MY GAWD, OH MY GAWD" and shreiks as I lifted it by it's tail were just classic.
By now another car had stopped in the line and traffic on 71 had slowed to 35-45 MPH to see what was going on though I doubt anyone understood really what was happening...!...I felt like an idiot! The young guy is constantly filming this entire thing and a couple of others were taking snapshots. Hanging by the tail the turtle really did look huge, I must confess. I said "OK now it is going into the truck"..It did not like being held by the tail and was lungeing backwards over it's carapace and over towards me my body trying to get a piece of me....The girls, especially the one with purple hair were just nothing but shrieks and screams each time the turtle lunged out to bite as though I was being snake bit.
About this time I saw a DPS trooper slowing down on the southbound lane before crossing right over the meidum strip to see what was going on....Remember this young guy is filming all of this stuff, but the camera is off the tripod now.. The officer was very nice and wanted to know if there was a problem and I explained the whole situ. The only thing he said was that we were creating a traffic hazard and distraction, which we were, and we would have to do this somewhere else. He also asked if I thought he needed to call a game warden and I said no as I was going to let it go in the river just ahead at La Grange and that I was a biologist just trying to keep a female turtle from getting killed on the highway , explaining it was a big female just looking for somewhere on land to lay her eggs. Remember also that I had almost 3 full ice chests full of dead cowbirds and even with a permit to have them, dealing with game wardens can be arduous.
The young guy films all of this including me putting the turtle in the back of the truck. Thanked me profusely and asked at least half a dozen times if he could use this video. I said no problem but asked for what and he said he did not know but he would "damn sure find something". I gave him a business card, cell number and mailing address which he asked for and he promised me that he would send me anything that he used this video for in the future. He said they lived in Houston but spent a lot of time in Austin where they were heading at the time for the weekend.
I took the turtle to La Grange and released it in the river just as promised, I even asked the young man if he wanted to film that but he did'nt really seem interested in that part of the story.
So if you see a film somewhere with a goofy looking guy catching a huge snapping turtle with a sharp-shooter shovel as a lure in one hand and the monster in the other, walking on the side of a busy highway, you are likely seeing me at my best or at least my strangest....Seemed like a win, win all the way around for everyone at the time though. We all stood around the bed of the truck for a couple of minutes admiring the beast before the officer said we needed to move on...The chubby guy in the little white car was the last to leave and up to that point had not said a word, but as he walked away with his super-sized 64 oz. soft drink, he said to me "You got a lot of balls to pick that thing up"
Well there you go....Its always something. By the way PH, I was wearing those damn jeans you say should fit so good but always seem to fall off my butt so if there is any cheek in this video, I am not responsible as I could barely keep them up and was in short of a bow-legged walk just to do so....My hands being full of turtle and shovel!!