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  • Writer's pictureTodd Stevens

The Great Escape

One hot dusty summer day in 1993 I loaded my oldest 3 kids up and we went fishing at a secret pond I’d heard about. After 3 or 4 wrong turns ,dead ends, and a dozen curse words, we finally found the right road. It was a narrow little lane, and looked like it was made of tan talcum powder. Tall grass grew over both sides of it so that only the grassy middle crown of the road was visible. At the very end was a little field, and I could see that a few others had parked there, so I did too. Massive cottonwood trees surrounded the pond, which could have been on a calendar it was so picture perfect. Bright green lilly pads rimmed the edge of the water, with pristine white flowers scattered here and there amongst them. The water was slick and black, like pooled motor oil. Dozens of blue and yellow dragonflies flitted all over the surface, occasionally landing on the very tips of snake grass that sprouted from the shoreline. We threw our lines out and watched the red and white bobbers….not move an inch for an hour. The idyllic spot was good for everything but fish. The kids started getting bored after a while , and rather than fight that battle I decided to pack it in. I gave them each a juice box and a granola bar and we headed out. We made it almost back to the main road when Ben said, “Look Dad, someone lost a tire in the road.” I knew no one had been in and out of that road, but he was right, there was a tire laying right in the middle of the road. It wasn’t until I’d pulled over and walked up to the tire, which was partially obscured by the tall grass, that I realized it was definitely not a tire, because it moved as I approached. It was a gigantic dark green and black snapping turtle. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I’ve seen hundreds of snapping turtles since that day, but never one to match this big boy. I couldn’t peg an accurate weight, but he was massive. Ben was right behind me. “Dad, no one will believe the size of this thing unless you catch it.” He was right, so I grabbed it by the rear of its shell and put it into the trunk of my car. I told Ben we’d show the neighborhood kids and his friends the turtle and then return it in a day or two.

When we got home we filled the kids pool with water and put him in. Over the next hour or so fifty or more people, both kids and adults came over and marveled at the monster. I had never handled a snapper before, and was lucky I didn’t lose a finger or two. I brought some fruit and vegetables out and impaled them on a stick and offered them to him. He snapped his neck out and sliced that stick, which was the thickness of my thumb, right in half without so much as a pause. Everyone oohed and awed over the power his jaws held. An hour or two went by and eventually everyone filtered off, and we went to bed. The next morning I got up early to take him back out to where I’d found him, but there was a problem. The turtle was gone. The kids pool was 12 feet in diameter and had 24 inch sides and I’d only put about 4 inches of water into it, I had no clue how he’d escaped, but he had. The kids and I scoured the neighborhood and asked around, but he had vanished. There was a supply ditch about 3 blocks away so I assumed he’d found it. The day wore on and after a couple hours I forgot about the turtle. I barbecued some chops that night and we were sitting in the dining room eating dinner when a news story suddenly flashed on TV. It told of a massive turtle that had somehow wandered into downtown Nampa Idaho, and there was video footage as well. The video showed two officers with a big bucket attached to the end of a long pole, and another officer trying to herd the beast into the bucket. At the end of the story we were told that the capture had eventually been successful and that the turtle was donated to the Morrison Knudsen nature center…you’re WELCOME…

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