“Do you think we should rescue him?” I asked.

A toad the size of a tennis ball sat in a basement window well of my parents’ house, minding his own business. He’d been in there for a few hours. I know toads aren’t much for movement, but I was thinking he might have landed in there looking for shade without realizing how hard it might be to launch his weight back out.

“We could wait longer, but if he’s not gone by this afternoon we should get him out,” said my mom. “Snakes like it in there too.”

“Oh no! We can’t let a snake eat you,” I said.

“A snake won’t eat him,” said my dad. “He’s too big.”

“I’m going for him anyway.” I reached into the well.

I hesitated. “He won’t give me warts, will he?”

Kidding.

After his 15 seconds of fame, I took Mr. Toad to the edge of the backyard. Where the lawn ends, the Outlot, as my family calls it, begins. The Outlot is a half dozen or so acres of untamed wild. It slopes down to a marshy area, where in the winter after sledding down the hill and through the trees, Kelly and I would make our way to the swamp where it hadn’t yet frozen, and row our plastic sleds around in the slush. I remember one time my ‘boat’ had started taking on water, so I climbed out of it and up the trunk of a tree. “Abandon ship!” I yelled to Kelly.

Ah, childhood memories.

I put Mr. Toad down on a piece of moss in a shady spot at the edge of the Outlot. “You’re free!” I told him.

He didn’t move.

“Suit yourself.”

I checked on him later. He was gone.

~ ~ ~

Every morning before breakfast, my parents walk around the neighborhood. When I’m home visiting, before turning in for the night, my mom will always ask: “You going to walk with us tomorrow morning?” Despite the early hour, I usually always do.

One morning we stumbled upon something I’ve never seen before. It was sitting strangely close to the road, only a few feet from the pavement.

“Holy crap, it’s huge!”

Not only was it the biggest snapping turtle I’d ever seen, it was actually a she, because she was laying eggs. My mom and I came back after breakfast with a camera and a ruler. She was still popping out eggs, sometimes two at a time.

She measured over 15″ long! (Sure, there are plenty of larger snappers, but this is the largest I’ve ever encountered.)

At home, my mom looked up how long it would take the eggs to mature: three to four months. (Too bad, I won’t be around to see them hatch.) ☼

Snapping Turtle Facts:

  • Females usually lay 20-40 eggs in one clutch.
  • Snapping turtles are cannibalistic.
  • They snap at humans and other threats because they are too large to hide under their own shells.
  • Picking up a snapping turtle by its tail can damage its spinal cord. If you find a turtle in the middle of a road, approach it from the rear, press down hard on the back of its shell to immobilize it, then pick it up by its back legs.