A matter of punctuation

“The lazy, hazy days of summer.”

Is that it? Actually, there’s nothing lazy about it or me. I simply lack the time. And the sky, for that matter, has never been a sharper, more brilliant blue.

I love these days (and wonder what it was about winter or fall that ever held any attraction for me). And, if I seldom have “sitting time,” I do make time to glance at the beauty always just beyond my windows.

The grass-eating carp, added two years ago, seem to be doing their job quite conscientiously. I presume they belong to the long dark bodies I see regularly coursing through the water.

The geese, for their part, have flown. Ducks fly over but no longer wander up to visit.

Quite regularly these days I also see an exclamation point floating quite motionlessly just beyond the dock.

“Exclamation point?”

Indeed: a long dash followed by a dot. Experience has taught me this is the snapping turtle.

Peterson describes them as “ugly both in appearance and disposition.” With a dinosaur-like saw-toothed tail, I don’t believe there’s anything else around that would even begin to resemble it. In the wild they generally weigh from ten to thirty-five pounds though one was caught who weighed in at 75 while another, bred in captivity, got up to 86. Turtle foie gras anybody?

Eggs are laid in a carefully dug hole with the sun left to do the incubating. I have found a number of these holes, dug open with only the smashed eggs left as evidence. As youngsters, they have to survive the threats of many predators but, once large and mean enough, they could live (if they can escape fellow man) up to 50 years.

Though considered generally inoffensive in the water, I’ve been told they won’t bother a bather which is extremely good to know. I’m happy to share but unwilling to abdicate. In fact if the water’s shallow, they like to bury themselves in the mud and, if stepped upon (I am told), they will pull their head in and hide.

I’ve happily offered mine to those who’ll make stew or soup out of the meat. That, to be quite candid, is way beyond my culinary skills or enthusiasms.

While I don’t want one dead (or alive) in my kitchen, I can attest firsthand to their nasty disposition.

Seeing one of these monsters (we do have quite pleasant turtles on the property too), I am always reminded of the summer Major had his own initiation into one of the unpleasant aspects of nature.

I watched at a reasonable distance as the turtle slowly crawled across the lawn, away from the lake to who-knows-where. (I wasn’t about to ask.) Exhibiting the curiosity I lacked Major proceeded to walk right up to it.

I called indeed, I hollered very loudly to get the dog away from the menace. It was one of those rare (extremely so, fortunately) times that he failed to obey. On he went.

“Hello,” said Major in his best doggy greeting, tail wagging as fast as it could. All he wanted was his usual friendly nose-to-nose.

The turtle didn’t think so, struck faster than I imagined a turtle could and the dog, yelping loudly, turned and raced away.

When I caught up with him, Major was nursing a very bloody nose.

Since, I have read that the snapping turtle’s neck is capable of extending up to two-thirds the length of its shell in a lightning-quick attack. Slow moving perhaps but do beware.

We learned our lessons that day.

Susan Crossett is a Cassadaga resident. Send comments to editorial@observertoday.com