Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Snap Decisions

My dogs and I take a long walk down a nearby secluded creek trail most mornings. To find this trail you have to go down my street into a blocked-off driveway-like easement meant for use only by the local water district. You head south, and then west past the barbed-wire gate of the expansive Water District property. Didn't you always wonder why they need acres and acres of fenced-off grassy fields upon which nothing seemed to be happening?
Anyway, after passing this waste of prime space, you find a lovely dirt path running parallel to an even lovelier creek. The creek runs north to south, with some little waterfalls, a duck pond and a bigger waterfall. Someone years ago built a treehouse by that waterfall.
In the pond - which is in full barren view in winter, but hidden by reed grass in the summer, there is abundant wildlife. Ducks and geese nest and raise families there. Herons and hawks live there too. Garter Snakes, toads, squirrels and rabbits abound.
My dogs, Charlie and Sammy love this walk. they get to be off-lead here, up and down the ravines, splashing in the creek, chasing squirrels and geese and raising a fine ruckus. One day in late spring, as we walked together past the sandy footbridge, Sammy spied a creature of great interest in the middle of the path. I was a ways back and all I could see was her barking at something, sniffing and jumping back. Barking, sniffing, jumping. Charlie joined in the chorus. As I came closer, I could see what it was. A large snapping turtle had decided that this high-traffic area would make an ideal nesting area for her eggs. She sat in the scoop she had made with her back legs, bravely facing her yapping tormentors, alternately pulling her head in and poking it out for a warning snap. I know that snapping turtles can bite your hand off if they want, so I called to the dogs, waving cheese in the air as I moved away from the scene. No go. Charlie and Sammy were mesmerized, circling and barking. I got worried mama turtle would connect with a snout at some point and I would be making tournaquets out of my bra, like I had read about in a story about a man who was mauled by a bear and his wife stripped off her undergarment and saved his life.
It's interesting how whole dramatic scenarios come to you in those moments. Maybe this is where movie scripts come from. Maybe some bored commuter riding a city bus to work imagined 'Crash' during a Monday rush hour. Idk.
The dogs were fine, the turtle was finally left in peace and our walk continued. A gaggle of geese glided along the pond, oblivious to the mayhem occuring nearby. A woodpecker could be heard from a spot in the trees where a shaft of early morning light poured down from the sky like a slanted silent waterfall. I reached into my pocket and the dogs came running to me, knowing well the slight sound of ziplock baggie holding bite-sized chunks of cheddar just for them.

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