Over the years, dozens of turtles have spent the night in our bathtub. Ten years ago, so did a 14-inch-long common snapper we named Stormin’ Norman. I wrote about Stormin’ at length in Confessions of a Turtle Wife.
A few month’s after Stormin’ left, a smaller, ten-inch-long snapper took up temporary residence in the tub. Here’s his story.
We named this extremely docile turtle Snappy.
Snappy’s owner had raised him from a hatchling. But apparently, the turtle had become too large for the owner’s comfort level. The man gave Snappy to the ASPCA, and they turned him over to Allen.
Snappy’s shell was conspicuously malformed. Its edges curved upwards in a fruit bowl shape, a sure sign of malnutrition. He’d almost certainly been fed too much protein. And he’d been given way too much—or not nearly enough—vitamins and minerals.
Although Snappy never once snapped at us, his attitude toward food was the exact opposite of the hunger-stricking Stormin’s. Snappy ate absolutely everything Allen fed him—including some pieces of the bottom of the shower curtain, which Allen did not feed him.
I didn’t mind using the bathroom with Snappy staring up at me from the tub. Since he was half the size of Stormin’, he didn’t scare me half as much.
One Saturday afternoon, Allen and Barbara D., the Turtle Society’s Education Director, drove to New Jersey to give a turtle lecture to a Boy Scout troop. They took Snappy along.
Barbara drove. The trunk and backseat of her big old Buick were filled with banners, tanks, Turtle Society tee shirts, and books, and more—stuff she used in the educational program on turtles she gave at schools, parks, and fairs.
So the only space in the car for the cardboard box with Snappy inside was on Allen’s lap.
That wasn’t a problem—until just blocks away from our apartment, Snappy’s head ripped through the top of the box, followed closely by his front claws.
“Ohmygod Ohmygod what do we do now?” cried Barbara.
“Quick, pull over, pull over!” Allen said, thrusting the box toward the windshield.
“I can’t get over–there’s too much traffic!”
“I’ll try to keep his head away from us! Allen held the box with his right hand. With his left, he grabbed the first thing he could reach from the back seat—a roll of duct tape.
He tried pushing Snappy’s head back into the box with the tape. But the roll accidentally slipped over Snappy’s head.
“Oh, shit,” Allen said.
“Oh hell,” Barbara said. She floored the car, swerving through three lanes of traffic to try to reach the service lane and the curb.
“Look at this!” Allen exclaimed. Barbara briefly glanced at Snappy, who was ignoring both the duct tape and Allen. Instead, he complacently stared out the open window, surveying his fascinating new surroundings.
Seconds later, as Barbara maneuvered the car to the curb, Snappy was still peering out of the window, and Allen and Barbara were shaking with laughter.
“God that scared me,” Barbara said.
“Scared you,” Allen said. “I was the one about to loose an eye or an ear!”
They collapsed into laughter again.
Allen managed to pull the roll of tape back over Snappy’s head. He and Barbara pushed the renegade snapper back into the box (using Peter Pritchard’s 895-page-long Encyclopedia of Turtles to keep the turtle’s head away from them.) Allen triple taped the box shut with the duct tape.
“He won’t get out again,” he said.
They reached their destination with no further disruption.
A week later (early September), Allen gave Snappy to John, a New Jersey Turtle Society member, to release into a private lake on John’s property.
John later reported to Allen, “I set Snappy down on the beach. Now, in this situation, most snapping turtles will sprint for the water, right? But what does this one do? He sits on the bank for fifteen minutes admiring the scenery. I could tell it was hopeless, so I brought him into the house for the winter. I’ll try to release him again next spring.”
We assume Snappy made it into the lake that spring. I wonder if he dreams about riding around in the front seat of Barbara’s Buick.