Gwyd and the Ungrateful Turtle- Misadventures with Wildlife

Locally, I have a bit of a reputation as a person who knows all about weird animals. I can identify them, have a storehouse of information on them, know their temperments and how they react to human interference. I was not surprised when I got a call last Thursday to come check out something that crawled underneath a friends car. They didn’t want to back out and squish it. They had called me before for snakes, salamanders, spiders, wierd bugs, a shrew…
All of these I would capture and relocate to a place that would be safer for the animal. The area I am in has a huge migrant population and these folks are from areas where it seems that everything is poisonous. They see a snake, lizard or weird bug, they are very likely to kill it without any hesitation. It took me years to get them to stop and at least call me first so I can get the critter, do a little education and save the beasties life. When they call, I get there quick!
This was the first time they had ever called me about a turtle.
I arrive on the scene and look into the dark under the car just as it was starting to rain. There it was. A massive brute of a turtle. I could see the outline of the shell (At least 18″ long and 9″ high) and the face. It seemed to be standing up more on its legs than most turtles. It’s shell was completely off the ground and the legs were more like hooves then the webbed claws I was used to seeing on turtles of that size. From the size of it, I first thought it must be a snapping turtle of some sort, but from the hoof-like feet and the fact that it was holding itself up off of the ground, I changed my thoughts a little…Perhaps it was some sort of tortoise. It was warm enough that it could have been a sulcata tortoise that someone had released into the wild, but it was really too dark under the car to see. I grabbed a stick and waved it in front of the face to see if it would react at all. It ignored it completely.
Ok…Not a snapper.
I was just reaching under the car when one of the many gathered to watch said “I wouldn’t have called you for a turtle, but it had such a weird tail.”
“Weird tail?” I asked, pausing for a moment.
“Yeah…it has these weird spikes…”
I yanked my hand back just as the head rocketed forward.
It was indeed a snapping turtle. I had messed with these fellows before. They stay very docile until they are sure they can get you and then WHAM! You are missing fingers. I just didn’t expect to find one in the middle of a parking lot, in the dark, under a car.
There was about 2″ of clearance between the top of the shell and the bottom of the car. I told the owner that she could back up very slowly and the turtle would be ok.
She pulled back and the monster was revealed. His four inch wide beaked mouth was gaping at me as he stood his ground. I looked at him carefully, checking the carapace for cracks or wounds. There was a leech attached to it that I removed from behind while distracting it with a stick. This was a beautiful tough old turtle. The feet had looked like hooves because most of its toes had been bitten of and so it stood funny.
It was about a half mile from the nearest body of water, and there were roads between it and safety. I was going to have to transport a very surly animal quite a bit of distance.
I had someone fetch me a box. It was fairly tall with an open top. I figured I could set it down in the box, throw it in the back of my car and drive it the short distance to the lake.
I set the box on my back seat and started to pull out. I turned around to look behind me, and that is when I noticed the giant turtle head peeking out between my seats and looking at my elbow in a non friendly fashion.
Have you ever seen someone jump out of a car in a state of panic because there was a bee inside?
Yeah. It was kind of like that except that a turtle that size could bit off my elbow.
It had overturned the box and was now set on defending its new territory. The back seat of my car.
I managed to wrestle the snapping flailing turtle from my back seat and held by the sides at arms reach. It was stretching out its neck over its shoulder trying to grab my fingers and missing by centimeters. There was no other way to do this but walk to the pond, holding the turtle so tightly my knuckles were turning white. Each time it snapped at me, its whole body jerked violently and it was slowly wearing me out. The rain picked up at the point into a downpour.
I walked the 1/2 mile to the lake in the rain with a berserk snapper flailing in my hands. I got to the steep, grassy, leaf covered bank to the lake, my flat soled Vans type sneakers squishing with water.
Flat soled Sneakers on a wet grassy leaf covered bank.
I landed on my back with a “Woomph!” sound, throwing the 20 lb turtle high into the air. I had just half a second to think “Ooh…That hurt!” before the gigantic 20 pound turtle landed on his back in the center of my stomach with a second “Woomph!”
This apparently was the turtles cue to begin break dancing as it tried to right itself. It’s rear feet flailing, its neck stretching out jaws snapping frantically for purchase…something, ANYTHING to grab on to.
I pushed the turtle one way and rolled the other. I landed in a low crouch backing away as the turtle, now having righted itself was literally charging at me, mouth agape.
I screamed and dove to the side, a frantic push with my foot sending it spinning down the bank into the lake.

He looked up at me once, and then swam off like nothing had happened.

Ungrateful little twit.


My near mugging in Atlanta -or- I am the terror that strolls in the night…

So I was recently in Atlanta Georgia for a week. As is my habit, I did not rent a car as my schedule was packed and I would not really have any opportunity to do any recreational traveling anyway. I do just fine on foot and using public transport (Atlanta’s MARTA system is top notch and can get you pretty much anywhere you need to go in the city). As a result, I wound up walking a lot in the evening to go get something to eat.

I am not a particularly timid traveler. Never have been. I have some faith in my fellow man, believing that 98% mean me no harm, and the other 2%  generally don’t see me as a target as I am just shy of 6 foot, weigh a little under 200 lbs and do not look like I am particularly flush with cash. Most folks on the street assume I am a biker.

So one evening after having a pleasant meal I was walking back to my hotel. I passed through a “questionable” area… Empty field on my right, graffiti littered warehouses to my left, a bit of trash here and there but not a soul in sight.
I was a bit distracted due to one of my core weaknesses- I was looking for critters. I may have been in the city proper, but I had seen all sorts for things we don’t get up North. Saddleback Caterpillars, Flying Squirrels… I was hoping that I might get lucky and see some other creatures as dusk was falling. The field to my right was perfect. I was walking slowly and scanning for tiny movement.
It was because of this that I did not notice someone approaching from behind. He came up suddenly between myself and the field.

An African American youth…somewhere in his late teens/early 20’s. Dressed in white shorts, a white tank top and hi-top tennis shoes. He was thin…Maybe 140 lbs at the most and around 5’9″.  Please do understand, I only mention his race as I believe it was the weapon he was depending upon for the task he had at hand. It was the only one he had,

“Hey man…You gonna give me 10 bucks?” as he fell into step beside me.

I turned my head to look at him. “Um…No. I don’t even have $10 on me…And even if I did, why would I give it to you?”

He stepped quickly in front of me, turning to look me in the eye. I stopped short, just a foot in front of him.
“To make sure you make it through this neighborhood safely…”
I did my best to assess the situation. I had seen no one else in this stretch. He was alone…I was sure of that, otherwise he would already have backup at his side. If he had any sort of weapon, I would have seen it or at least the outline of it through his clothes. He was unarmed.

I took a deep breath before looking slowly to my left, then to my right.

“I don’t see anything around here to be scared of…” Then I took a sudden step forward with an alpha male chin jut. This brought me abruptly about two inches from his nose.

I growled “Do you?”

He stumbled backwards, tripping a little over his feet. I took another step forward.

“I don’t think I’m the one who should be scared…” My voice was low, quiet and very controlled as I rolled up the sleeves of my T-shirt  still walking towards him.

He was backing away at a more rapid pace and starting to turn away. “F*** you man…Just F*** you…”
He turned fully, walking away at a fast pace. He swore at me in Spanish, half under his breath.

I laughed quietly before calling out : “Habla Espanioles, Idiota…vámonos…” as I continued walking towards him.
Two steps later he was actively running. Soon he was out of sight.
I breathed a sigh of relief.

Now…What did I learn from this? What did it remind me?

1- Even I need to be more aware of my surroundings. No matter how cool the critters are.

2- Always stay calm and assess the situation. Stay calm and you will make it out ok. Panic just makes things blurry.

3- I can still give people nightmares when I need to. It was good to be reminded of that. I forgot how good it feels.


YOLO…You only live once.

I wrote this a while back but was just reminded of it. Welcome to a Gwyd Rant.
YOLO (You only live once)
I saw this beneath a photo “YOLO…LOL!” of a girl holding a beer in one hand while making duck lips and a gang sign.
Really? You proclaim “You only live once”, a very powerful statement, because you are having a drink? This is your celebration of life? I had a beer last night and at no point did I find the need to say “Well, you only live once”. I had the need to think “Hey…This beer tastes good and I am no longer thirsty” but it was certainly not a significant life altering event.
I have seen a lot of other examples of “YOLO” being tossed around very cheaply. Can we try to save it for things that actually have a real impact on your life like…Bear Wrestling? Suddenly packing up and moving to Fiji? Trying something where you have little chance of success but dangit…You are going to try anyway?
I am pretty sure that finishing the beer while making duck lips may have been challenging but in the greater scheme of things…YOLO? Really?

Gwyd and the Supernatural part 2 plus the tale of the Roo Roo

Following my post yesterday…Which was the second time I felt instinctual terror in my life, I felt it necessary to detail the first.  This was an occurrence of a different nature. Extraterrestrial?

So…The short story of how Gwyd went for a walk in the middle of the night and came home at a screaming run.

I was a country teen. I rode a bus an hour and a half a day to go to school. Not because it was that far away…Just 12 miles, but because there was so much distance between students it took forever to pick up enough of them to fill a bus. It was about 4 miles to the nearest paved road.
I never really had a curfew, not during the summer at least.  I had to have the car at home by a certain time, but never really a set time I had to be back at the house and in bed. After all, there was not much trouble I could really get into. I spent a lot of time at night out in the woods or just walking (A habit I keep to this day).
So…I had a friend crash at my place while my parents were out of town. We were jamming on guitars, eating pizza and discussing things that we were absolutely sure no one had ever discussed in quite this fashion before. Typical teenage “Oh my gosh…we are sooo deep” sort of stuff.

Things were winding down a bit around 3 am but neither of us was particularly tired. As it was a pleasant summer night, we decided to walk the mile and a half to the girl next door’s house and see if she was up.
We knew there was absolutely no chance of this. None at all. To a couple of 16 year old boys however, it was indeed possible. Well worth a stroll to find out.
So we left on what we indeed knew was a futile mission.

We had walked almost exactly one and a quarter miles under clear skies. The moon was out and near full, all around we could hear crickets and peeper frogs. There was a little wisp of fog from one of the watering hole ponds that the cows drank from. We could even see some cows huddled up a few hundred yards away.
Then we saw something else. At first I thought “Ooh…Fireflies!”  but then it struck me that fireflies are not red or blue. They also don’t slowly gain brightness over a 10 second period and then fade out like they were on a dimmer switch.

I looked closer and saw that they were appearing in front of a black background. I know…Night sky…That is a black background right? No. This was a black area covering the night sky with a defined edge. It was roundish. Slightly elliptical and moving slowly. As it moved, the fading in and out red and blue lights moved with it, as though affixed to its surface. As it moved you could see stars slip behind it and it would block them out until they reappeared on the other side.
My perception was that it was a large, flat object about 15 feet across with independently fading lights randomly attached.
We both stopped and watched while it slid behind a lone tree in the cow field.

We stood still for another moment, then without a word, turned and started walking back towards home. We didn’t speak, we didn’t rush, and we never once turned our heads back towards what we had seen. We walked in absolute silence as the crickets and peepers had decided that we had the right idea and now was not the time for conversation.
This went on until we had almost  reached my driveway. Many of you, not accustomed to country driveways would now say “Ah…safe then! Just pop into the house!”
Not so much. The driveway alone was the length of two football fields. This is when my friend said “You saw that…right?”
“M-hmmm…” I replied, not turning my head.
“You noticed that it is all quiet around here…right?”
“Yep…” I replied.
“You think that maybe that is because it followed us home?”
It is at this point that rational thought went on holiday.

We did not, in fact, turn to see if the christmas light flying disk from beyond had indeed followed us home. Did not bother to turn our necks a single degree to check if it was hovering inches from our shoulder blades  just waiting to extrude a pseudopod to extract our memories…None of this was a concern.

It seemed to my non rational brain that the priorities were now running and screaming with some flailing for good measure. I envision myself as a terrified kermit the frog- Arms raised, hands flapping loosely at the wrists, mouth open with gibbery noises coming out running knees to chest from the thing I was absolutely sure was moments away from turning me into a pod person.

We got through the door of the house, slamming it behind us. I sprinted up the stairs to my room and strung my bow.
Yes…My bow. You work with what you know. I gestured my friend towards the antique Daisy bb gun.
Cause…You know…Aliens hate flying pointy sticks and little balls of metal that can’t pierce cardboard.

And there we waited until morning.

Towards morning we both wrote down exactly what we saw without discussion. What we wrote matched up pretty well.
And we never talked about it again.

Is this a little easier to explain than my previous entry? A blue and red weather balloon accidently filled with fireflies, lit by the moon’s reflection off of Venus crashes behind a tree due to a low pressure zone caused by swamp gas?
I can go with that 🙂

Bonus tale- The Legend of the Roo Roo. The tale that proves all things are possible.
The first cryptid I ever attempted to validate was the Roo Roo. Don’t bother looking it up. There is nothing about it anywhere. The Roo Roo was never seen alive…only heard.
This happened when I was about 13 years of age. We were living in a trailer while we built what was to become our house. It sat in a field at the edge of the woods, a fairly large woods at that. Some of it was privately owned, some of it was state land but it ran on for miles along the banks of the Black River on the East side of Michigan. These woods were my favorite place in the world and I would spend every second I had to spare there.
The evening the Roo Roo came, I was not home. I was spending the night at a friends house several miles away. When I returned, I was met by my father asking if I had done it.

I had no idea what he was talking about! He went on to describe what had happened. He had been out walking Bonnie Longears, our basset hound in the middle of the night. He heard a crashing noise from the woods along with some grunting. It sounded like something big. Not the sort of crashing you would hear from deer but more of a trees being toppled and logs torn apart sort of crashing. Bonnie the dog listened carefully, staring at the spot the crashing was coming from. Then the creature made a different sort of noise. A low growling Roo sound that repeated…


The dog tensed.

Louder “Roourou!!”

The dog bolted towards the house and my father followed.

Over the next hour my family sat, listening to this large beast crashing through the trees mere meters from the trailer. All the while it uttered its strange cry…


And their only explanation the next day was that it had been me. I hadn’t even gone through my puberty voice change yet! There was no way I could have made that sound!

Thing is, we knew all of the local types of critters. Nothing any of us knew of would make that noise. Perhaps a bear…but the sound was too consistent. Bears kind of talk when they growl. Not the same sort of call over and over again. We had an unknown creature on our hands.

It happened one time after that, also when I was away. And it was then dubbed the Roo Roo.
It became a family joke. “Take a stick…There’s Roo Roo’s out there!” “Go get the eggs before the Roo Roo collects them…”
“Lock up the Ducks so the Roo Roo can’t get ’em!”

We finished the house and moved in. Many years later my parents got their first computer. They had the Encarta Encyclopedia with video and sound and every thing. This was the first time I ever got to use a computer that didn’t load from a cassette player and I was excited! Audio and video files? I could play them on the computer?
I browsed the cd’s (There were about 8 of them I think) looking for files to play. I found one I thought might be interesting and I clicked…
This is the sound I found:
My dad ran into the room.

That was the sound. The sound of an annoyed badger. The sound of the Roo Roo.

I have not met many people who have seen a badger in Michigan. I was outside all the time at all times of day and had never seen or heard one. I didn’t think they even lived in the area.
It was something outside of what I knew and as such had taken on mythical properties. It was something that was not supposed to be there so as a human, I filled in the blanks.
Now I know it was a badger.
But when I see one at the zoo, I still call it a Roo Roo.