After being soaked through and through from the dewdrops dripping off the different foliages of the drenched jungle we felt as if we were in a Brazilian rainforest during an afternoon shower instead of the massive jungles of Africa. Combining the sweet and stale smells of the dampened jungle with the alluring aromas of the fresh flowers, which grew wild in the open plains, caused our thoughts to wander to the feelings we were on a great Safari hunt in search of lions, tigers, and all the dangerous animals that God had placed in the mighty jungles of Africa. We felt as if we were the Swiss Family Robinsons, Robin Crusoe, and Robin Hood with all his merry men (or in my sisters cases the merry women) all rolled into one. Adventurous dreams of this sort werent any stretch of the imagination for children who were ten, eight, and seven plus a two year old to boot!
The vast and endless jungle of our young imaginative life was a tenacre thicket located behind the house we were renting in rural Mississippi at the time, something new to us moving from the suburbs of a growing town, outside the capital city of the state of Alabama with nothing to play in but a fenced in backyard. The wild flower aromas from the wide open plains were the fresh daisies and dandelion our mother had planted at the edge of the over-grown thicket trying to improve the looks of the pasture like yard. Even though threatened daily that we would be skinned alive if we didnt stay out of the woods, we couldnt help ourselves because the mysteries of this quaint but subtle jungle drew us in like a tick to the loose skin of a red bone bloodhound!
This particular warm and wet morning while on Safari in the trickling forest we hit the jackpot or so we thought at the time. The jackpot was to be our newest pet to be displayed in the stagnate water of the round concrete and bricked goldfish pond in the yard beside the side of the house. Having no idea of what we were doing or what we had at the time, me and my two older sisters started on an adventure that surely would have even made Steve Erwin the Crocodile Hunter proud. The most risky escaped we were endeavoring on was the capture and confinement of a giant loggerhead snapping turtle with a shell measuring at least eighteen inches from head tail. To add to the difficult chore of transporting our unwilling prize the twenty feet across the yard from the thicket of the woods to its new home we had to do it without discovery by our dear loving mother because if she apprehended us she would surely take no prisoners!
Thinking quickly how to avoid capture I sent my next to the youngest seven year old sister inside to acquire the services of our two year old baby sister to man the lookout post so we could begin our plan to conquer our mighty foe the Tortoise! After a lot of bribing, threatening, and promising our crafty toddler lookout, we negotiated a deal with the young shyster and began our endeavor of wills against our worthy adversary the dangerous and vicious turtle.
My eight year old (the oldest) sister was frightened of our enemy because of the ridges and points on its shell and head not to mention the colossal claws on its feet. The only thing she would agree to do to help us in our quest of entrapment was stand a half piece of paneling board in front of the menacing creature to hinder its escape back into the wooded thicket and fromthe clutches of me and my seven year old sisters aggressive and relentless attack. Having thought out our ill-devised plans as well as kids of that age could we began our careful assault using a push me pull me effect with a garden hoe and rack from the back porch, which our mother used to prune her flower beds. I would push our heavy ugly new pet with the hoe towardsthe cement pond until I couldnt reach our quarry anymore without endangering my bare feet and toes. Then my sister would use the teeth of the garden rake to grab the far side of our foes shell and pull with all her might while running backwards towards the concrete cell till the determined turtle would wiggle free of the garden rakes grasp. Upon his escape, he always gave chase to one of us for a short distance which even though a bit frightening would start a barrage of laughter and giggling amongst us. Before I realized it, our toddler sentry had abandoned her post and joined us in our festivities of fleeing and giggling from our slow adversary, which at the time was alright, with the rest of us because we were having a grand and wonderful time. Then absolute horror shuddered through the very souls of all of us including our inattentive preschool guard.
Hearing the creaking and the slamming of the spring loaded rickety screen door, we reacted in a timely manner to save our threatened hides. Quickly thinking my oldest sister placed the paneling board between the turtle (who to all of our surprise didnt make a run for it) and our mother so she would think we were just playing and having a good time. It was not as if we were disobeying her by design. We were hoping and trying to have a new friend and pet in this new town. After rendering a quick survey of our playground, slash battlefield, she barked the order for us to continue as she abruptly did an about face marching back to the rear of the house. Upon hearing the screen door slam once more, we continued to execute our relentless conquest of turtle entrapment for about another hour, comprising the total time of turtle transport to the cement pond around two hours.
Thinking we had pulled off the perfect caper while eating our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at lunch, our Benedict Arnold toddler lookout ratted us out ruining our well-planned Safari adventure! After our traitor baby sister had turned on us, we waited for our mothers loving but firm reprisal, hoping for the best but expecting the worse. Sitting there quaking from fear we awaited, for her verdict when she exposed her hand saying, “Wait until your father gets home!”Even though our dread and fear was sincere, it in no way diminished our preliminary joy of victory at least until our father arrived home that day.
Upon our father and uncles arrival home from work, our beloved mom met them at the doorway with the tale of our adventurous day, which in turn caused them to burst into a fit of laughter. Telling my uncle to retrieve the gun from the work truck and for our mom to get them a cold drink our dear ole dad circled the house to the turtles prison to carry out our prisoners execution with me begging and pleading all the way to spare the convicts meager existence. Laughing at me for crying (I was only ten) they popped the tops on their drinks taking a big swig. Then my six foot three uncle set down his drink taking aim at the huge head of the snapping turtle with the twelve-gauge shotgun, relieving the poor turtle from the torture it had been enduring since we had shoved it into its prison cell.
Unfortunately, for our new pet my sisters and I knew very little about taking care of turtles. First off, we thought it was an herbivore instead of a carnivore, so we threw leaves, branches, and clumps of grass for it to eat. My sisters and I were not overly smart kids for sure because our second wrong assumption would have also resulted in the prisoners death, but in a less humane way. We thought turtles were like fish not understanding that they were air-breathing creatures like us and they needed a log or island so they could rest. The cell we had trapped him in had an overflow pipe that kept the water level of the stagnant water at least eight inches down from the ground level, too tall for him to climb, thus leaving the turtle only one of two choices, sink or swim.
Still laughing at my expense my dad and uncle discarded the poor prisoners remains into a shallow grave, which our mixed bred dogs Jigs and Cochise dug up that night. They didnt realize what upset me so much wasnt that I liked the turtle the same way I loved the dogs or even the fact they had killed an animal not to be used for food or clothing. I understood some critters needed killing, because once a month dad and I had to kill the one-foot file tail rats that snuck into the screened in back porch to keep them from eating the dry dog food and possibly giving us diseases.
I cried that day because of all the work and effort my sisters and I had involved in the capture of the reptilian beast, was instantly undone by the loud report of the shotgun. The turtle was our dangerous dinosaur we were going to put on display like the mighty King Kong, which would have surely made us world renown and famous!
Drifting back thru the fabric of time to my youth so many years ago to the day my sisters and I battled with a ferocious and highly capable foe. We were on that day glorified big game Safari hunters who had succeeded in the capture of one of Gods most stubborn and dangerous creatures to ever crawl across His most glorious earth. At that time, we were both proud and humbled by our great accomplishment and the feeling of pride we had.The day of our first and magnificent achievement! To voice it in a classical way we;