Why Did the Turtle Cross the Road?

Lill Hawkins
 


Visitors: 178

I'm all set. I have a snow shovel in the car. There's a butterfly net in the upstairs bathroom. Cinnamon is on sale at Marden's, so I can pick up enough to cover my computer desktop and the floor under it, and the pet food is now in snake-proof plastic containers out in the mudroom. Yup, it's June in Maine for sure.

I'm not saying that it couldn't snow in June here, but that's not why I have the shovel in the car. Nope, the shovel is to help save the most hated varmint on Maine roads in the spring and summer. Snapping turtles. They're kind of the mean drunk of the reptile family and not too good at picking when to cross roads. They travel miles from water to lay their eggs for reasons known only to themselves.

A lot of drivers will deliberately run right over them. These people are sometimes fisherman who resent the fish that snappers eat. Some of the drivers have heard horror stories of snappers biting off the toes and fingers of innocent swimmers. They can, but it's more likely to happen on land. In the water, snappers tend to move away from humans. I can't think of a single reason to run over them, so I stop and either my son or I help them across the road whenever I see one.

Although many people think that it's okay to pick them up by their tails, you can actually damage their tails and innards doing that. Also, they have really long necks and can reach around and bite you before you know what hit you. It's much better for them and you if you get the snow shovel under them, keep it just above the ground and deposit them on the side of the road they were heading toward. They won't thank you for it, but it's a good ecological move. I used to eat turtles in my impecunious youth, so whenever I save one, I figure I'm paying back a little karmic debt.

The butterfly net in the bathroom is for the bats that find their way in and then hang from the ceiling or the curtain rod. We have no idea how they're getting in, but every once in awhile, one will show up. Geekdaddy, who got elected to bat removal detail because he's taller than the rest of us, is a dab hand at plunking the net up against the ceiling, sliding a magazine between the ceiling and the net and racing for the stairs, all the while yelling for someone to open the slider before the squirming little flying fox gets out of the net. He refuses to let us videocam him, which is too bad, because it'd be a big hit on Youtube.

Cinnamon is a good ant deterrent and smells a heckuva lot better than ant traps. Also, the dog won't eat it and get poisoned like she would with boric acid. (She's a Black Lab who has eaten everything from soap to coffee beans in her charmed life and the only edible thing she's ever given a miss to when offered is cinnamon. We just know she'd love boric acid. )

So when we see ants, we strew a little cinnamon. We have it on the kitchen counters against the wall, on the basement floor against the baseboard and out in the mudroom near the door. So far, the ants are disappearing about two days after we put down the spice. The only drawback that we can see is that it smells like cookies all over the house and we're jonesing for snickerdoodles bigtime. I'd make some, but then we'd have crumbs all over and more ants and we'd have a vicious circle going on. Besides, until I lose ten pounds, no one eats cookies in front of me.

I really don't have to explain the snake-proof plastic containers for the pet food. Obviously, they're containers that snakes can't slither into in order to make off with the dog's and cats’ food. The reason we have this problem is because the food is in the mudroom and the mudroom isn't completely sealed off from the outside world. There are channels for the garden hose spigot that the former owner thought would work a treat when you hitched the hose to it and then hauled said hose out through the door, so that the door is open just enough to let in every insect in the county.

There are nooks and crannies and crumbling concrete, so it's really a wonder that we don't have black bears in there, but instead we have garter snakes. Every once in awhile, we come home or go out and a garter snake pops out from behind the freezer or slithers out from someone's shoe on the plastic bookcase that serves as a shoe rack. Son springs into action with the cage we use for hatching monarchs in the fall, and he and I corner the reptile and then slip it into the cage for observation.

You'd think that we'd just let it go, as many times as we've seen one of the little critters, but we always examine it in minute detail, comparing it to other garter snakes we've known, other species of snakes, salamanders, toads and frogs we've caught and released. We're simple folk, apparently, and easily amused. (I swear it's a side effect of not having cable or Dish. )

We spend hours cornering moths that flutter around our reading lamps, only to have a cat bat it out of our hands when we try to put it out the window. Or we get a cricket to jump into a bandaid box and put it outside and then see several more smaller ones crawling around near the baseboard, which has us running to grab “Insects of North America" to find out if cricket babies need their moms to survive. (They don't. )

There are other things that invade our space at times: skunks and porcupines out in the yard and the dog just has to investigate them, no matter how many times she gets sprayed or stabbed. Black bears blatting down in the swamp when we're taking a walk, coyotes howling in the nearby woods when our cats are all out hunting, eagles that soar overhead when the cats are sunbathing on the deck, pileated woodpeckers that decide that our telephone pole is a lunch bar. You'd think this was like out in the wild or something, as one of our visitors from away said once.

Well, yes, actually. That's why we don't leave the house without a snow shovel.

Lill Hawkins lives in Maine and writes about family life, home education and being a WAHM at http://hawkhillacres.blogspot.com . Get the News From Hawkhill Acres: A mostly humorous look at home schooling, writing and being a WAHM, whose mantra is “I'm a willow; I can bend. "

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