A Tale of Two Critters

The players:

Deacon D. Dawg: happiest in the creek

Deaky Boy: shake it off, Buddy!

 


My dear husband, the Big Bison: happiest in the studio, but equally happy going hunting

Look at that sweet face!

 

A notoriously vicious beaver

A snapping turtle

The Scene:

This story plays out best told in the oral tradition, complete with accents and hand motions. However, lacking the desire to make a video, I will attempt to leave a written account.

The story takes place, surprisingly,  NOT in the Boonies, but in our little 1948-built suburban home that we USED to live in when we lived back in Nashville. This one’s for all you folks who know that wildlife DON’T just live in the Boonies.  

At our first house, we had a creek that all the wildlife left in the city frequented, so even before we lived in the Boonies, we had lots of wild animal guests: deer, foxes, cranes, and one day, a beaver.

Deacon alerted us to the presence of the beaver with wild relentless barking. We have this on videotape. The beaver was patrolling a particular bend in the creek like Barney Fife in front of the Mayberry courthouse.  Back and forth he swam. We actually recorded this on videotape, and if you come to see me someday, I might even show it to you.

Deacon lunged at the orange toothed rodent, and got a big gash on his elbow for his trouble. After we all retreated to the house (dragging the dripping dog out of the creek, still barking and lunging at the beaver), the beaver must have decided he had had enough excitement, so he moved on to a quieter locale, perhaps in downtown Atlanta.

My dear husband, the intrepid hunter, talked to a friend of ours who was an attorney for the city of Nashville, who advised us that if an animal is an imminent threat to the health of a family member, one could perfectly legally shoot said animal. (Now remember, at that time we lived in a suburban neighborhood.) I could see the Big Bison mentally licking his proverbial hunting chops at the thought of the trophy rodent who got away.

Now, if you’ve read this far, you might be thinking that the “two critters” are Deaky and the Beaver. Well, if that’s your assumption, then you’d be wrong. I was actually referring to two undomesticated creek critters. The first WOULD be the Beaver. But the second critter took the stage about 6 months after the Notoriously Vicious Beaver Incident. (NVBI)

In our neighborhood, in the house immediately to the left of us, our neighbor operated an illegally zoned day care out of her home. She had a big tall fence around her backyard to keep the little tykes out of the creek, and the nosy neighbors from reporting her.

(Of course, it was no secret to us, and we never did report her, but all morning we could hear all the daycare kids outside playing on her big play sets.) 

On the right side of our home lived our dear friend Betsy. So, one morning I was outside weeding the garden, listening to the sounds of the daycare children swinging and playing, when Deacon began his incredibly loud frantic barking – just as he had the morning of the NVBI.

My dear son, who was probably 7 at the time, came running back from the creek yelling, “Mom, Deacon’s lunging at a HUGE snapping turtle!!!” .

Now, the thing about snapping turtles is that once they latch on, they DON’T LET GO.

So, I told my dear son, “Run, tell your Dad!”.

My dear son obediently ran into the house, and I ran to the creek, remembering the NVBI, and began screaming, “Deacon! Deacon!”.

It was as if I were the wind. The dog was in an absolute Labradorian frenzy, and would pay me no heed, no matter how urgently I screamed his name. He was in the creek (3 ft. deep) on the other side, lunging at this HUGE turtle, and I knew disaster was imminent.

Enter: The Cavalry, aka the Big Bison, on the run, with a fevered look in his eye, brandishing a 12 gage shotgun and a pitchfork. The man was READY to defend wife, children, home and property, and yes, if necessary, even his stupid Labrador.

The BB manages to call and grab the dog, and says, “Get inside, and keep the dogs and the kids inside!”. I rapidly comply.

Suddenly, I hear the sound of a veritable CANNON going off, followed by absolute and complete silence from the kids in the daycare behind the tall fence. I mean, following the SONIC BOOM, there wasn’t even a birdie chirping.

I called my dear friend Betsy and told her what was going on, and she and I met up outside. We were standing outside in her driveway as I recounted the tale of the morning’s adventure.

We glanced down her driveway, and saw a police cruiser, slowly rolling to a stop, in front of, you guessed it, my house. My heart, which had calmed a bit after its earlier adrenaline rush, began to beat a bit faster as one of Nashville’s Finest strolled down Betsy’s driveway, adjusting the buckle of his belt underneath his huge belly.

(The following dialog must be read with the knowledge that the police officer’s accent was deeply, DEEPLY southern. This is where the oral tradition of telling this story adds so much.)

Police Officer: “Mornin’, Ladies. Y’all know anything about a woman screaming?”

Me: “Good morning! A woman screaming? Why, um, yes. That would have been me.”

PO: “Well, y’all know anything about a gun being discharged?”

Me: “A gun? Hmmm. Well, um, that would have been my husband.”

PO: (Momentarily stumped as to how to proceed…) “Well, uh, can ya tell me about that?”

Me: “Well, you see, officer, my dog was going after a snapping turtle back there at the creek,” at this point I am gesturing back toward the woods in back of my house, “and my husband decided to try to take care of the situation…”

Looking at the police officer, who, by this time had been joined by a second police officer, whose police cruiser rolled up right after the first one, I could see a look of TOTAL and COMPLETE disbelief on both their faces as they scanned my body for bruises, red marks, or open gaping wounds.

1st PO: “Well, Ma’am, where is your husband now?”

I turned again to gesture back toward the woods, and as if on cue, the Big Bison appeared walking through our little garden trellis archway, carrying the pitchfork, and somehow, speared on the end of it was a snapping turtle the size of an extra large pizza.

The PO’s regarded each other in stunned silence, and then approached the BB.

PO: “Uh, Sir, did you know it’s against the law to discharge a weapon in the Urban Services District?”

BB: “Really? Well, I talked to my friend who is an attorney for the city and he told me that if I or my family were in imminent danger, that it would be legal.”

PO#1: “Well, uh, if they were in danger…”
PO#2: “You got a permit for that weapon?”

BB: “Oh, yes, I’m a hunter and I use my guns when I go deer and turkey hunting.”

PO#1: “You are? Me too! Where do you go hunting?”
PO#2 : (Nodding in the direction of the snapping turtle)”Say, you know, you gotcha some good eatin’ there…”

And that is how that night at my house, I walked into my kitchen and saw the talons and feet of what looked remarkably like a dinosaur, sticking out and up over the edge of my sink. My dh marinated them in a little Dale’s (a soy sauce seasoning here in the South) , sliced ’em up, and grilled ’em.

My dear friend Betsy and her Mom came over for some snappin’ turtle as well. And although it is very tempting to tell you that it tasted like chicken, to me it tasted like a rubber band that had been marinated in soy sauce. But my dear friend Betsy says she still laughs to this day remembering me saying to my daughter, “No more snapping turtle until you finish your veggies”.


Yum
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