Monday, July 16, 2012

On Monday, the 16th of July, the 27th day of summer, 67 days promise sunshine, warmth and surprises. It is the day of the Snapping Turtle.

I am happy to report that my Sunday bike ride turned into a 22 mile journey, lasting from Five in the evening until three minutes after Midnight. I am running on five and a half hours sleep, and low quality sleep. I couldn't settle down for sleep until One and I watched Criminals Minds as I cooled off. I woke up every hour and suffered dreamless sleep. However, I feel good and have held meetings and written memos in the meantime. I will probably grow drowsy during my programming hours, but I actually like those incoherent thoughts that arise when my eyes flicker.
I set off at Five, and that time brings shadows across the road, protecting my skin against sunburn. I was happy to see wildlife. In Norris Creek, I spotted snapping turtles sunning themselves on rocks and logs. In Rix Robinson Park, a scrappy pocket park between Skipper Bud's and US-31, I beheld a doe and her two fawns. In memory, only one of the fawns had the white spots. The three deer stared at me and I slowly pulled my cell phone camera out of my top pocket. When I raised it to my eye, the threesome pulled into the shadows near the weeds. The deer must feel safe in the park because no hunting is allowed inside city limits, unless it's a deer cull with sharpshooters hired to make clean kills. The deer had no real place to escape because the west was bound by US-31, with fences to surmount, cars to dodge and a median wall to leap. For Grand Isle, the Grand River splits into a strong north channel and a weak, clogged south channel. I am pretty sure a deer wrangler could have tracked and wrestled the doe to the ground. I wouldn't vouch for this cruel action. I just note the doe's vulnerability to capture.  A woman came jogging by and I pointed out the threesome and we both watched as the three stared back from the shadows. All I wanted was a picture, but the shining off my cellphone camera probably didn't look safe. In this matter, I declare myself a bad naturalist.
Robinson park has three crappy weed choked ponds that are spoiled by runoff from the freeway. yet, the life contained in them is abundant. On an early visit, I have noted a feeding Blue Heron. From a foot bridge over one of these ponds, I watched as a muskrat chewed the water sending off ripples and a painted turtle paddled about. I was pretty sure I was looking at a muskrat because the creature had a rat's tail. I pulled out my cellphone camera and took one picture, which could have benefited from a zoom lens. I really should just attach a Go Pro to my hat. The painted turtle, no more than two inches in shell width, swam close to the muskrat, and the muskrat dove straight down.
Earlier, as I pedaled the Greenway trail through a small trailer park near Seven Steps Up, I denoted several turtles floating in the shallow, shell under water and head above the water, surely the inspiration for a periscope. I saw Canadian Geese lined up on the shore line logs, plus a family of Canadian Geese, swimming about.
Norris Creek is the creek at, roughly, the northern most point of Spring Lake. I have had a beautiful dinner of roast pork and homemade apricot pie, served in the dining room of a floral designer who hosts Nature's Creative Edge. That show displays the floral sculptures of twenty to thirty floral designers along a wooded path, an event the draws thousands to the wilds of Fruitport. You can find the parking for the event at the corner of Hilton Park and Sternburg Roads. Here, the stream flows clear and sparkling over a bed of pure West Michigan sand, maybe the world's most useful sand. Conservationists have yet to stop sand mining of dunes for this sand. I rather wish the miners could satisfy their needs with sand off the bottom of the lake, from dredging.
Norris Creek at the marsh that marks its confluence with Spring Lake looked turbid and rank Sunday afternoon. A few boys fished in the creek, where murky waters made it impossible to see the fish for which they were casting bait. I saw the snapping turtles on logs and rocks, their shells carpeted with mossy algae. Norris Creek is still a very vital creek, with salmon running up its passage in September. This fact delights a print maker who keeps a studio overlooking Norris Creek. Most of the creeks around Lake Muskegon have had restoration projects, including Ruddiman Creek and Ryerson Creek. I am hoping funding can be found for a restoration of Norris Creek.
I remember once picking up a snapping turtle and carrying it by the shell, across a dirt road, where I put him of the base of a ditch. I had wanted to take it home from my friend's house to keep as a pet. A snapping turtle can snap at any point of its body, including its tail. It is not helpful to pick up a snapping turtle by its tail because it damages the turtle's vertebral column and I don't think snapping turtles have chiropractors. Horses do but turtles don't. At least, we can't have too many snapping turtle chiropractors. It's hard to adjust a spine under a carapace. I remember one summer day, my daughter and I were exploring a mill pond by the LA Cafe in Clarkston, Michigan. Four huge snapping turtles were sitting on the grassy shore, and I told my daughter not to touch them. But we did see how close we could sneak up to them without sending them to the water to dive. I assumed we could get close without drawing too close to their jaws. I was ricking being a bad dad and a bad naturalist.
In the end, the three turtles didn't move. I guess they were heavy with eggs and had to start digging.
One summer, my mother sent me down to the neighbor's dock on Euler Lake to fish for the night's supper. I caught fish almost every day for a month. I would catch a mess of fish I would keep alive in a net, kept in the water, the net attached to the dock by a stringer. A snapping turtle found the net and was swallowing one of the fish whole, but couldn't engulf the sunfish entirely. The net was preventing swallowing. I pulled up on the net, and that was enough to dislodge the fish. I brought all the fish home, scaled them, gutted them, including the fish with turtle marks. My mother dusted them with seasoned flower and cooked them in a hot oil bath, the oil kept boiling hot in a cast iron dutch over. We ate the friend fish with onion rings, homemade bread and fresh slices of tomatoes and cuke cumbers from her garden. I miss those meals.
For many years, I received carved turtles in wood and stone for my birthdays.
Nothing Common About the Snapping Turtle:

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