Saturday, July 25, 2009

En-Uk's Testudinal Email

Southern Painted Turtle
En-Uk's Hopeful Catch?
(Image from Wikipedia)

On Wednesday, I saw my wife and two kids off to the airport for their trip to my hometown of Salem, Arkansas. They arrived safely in the Ozarks and have big plans, especially my ten-year-old En-Uk, who emailed to say:
Dear Daddy,

I will catch a turtle tooday.

Well . . . his correspondence is nothing if not concise, so I'll have to draw as much from it as I can interpret. No "love," I see, so I'll assume that it's just understood to be there, so taken-for-granted that it need not be mentioned. I'm not sure what he meant by his less-than-concise "tooday" . . . possibly influenced by the extra-long Wednesday of the flight across time zones? Or did he expect to do too much on one day? Yet, he seems to have wanted only to catch a single turtle.

Actually, that's a big thing for him, and he's been talking about this for more than the past two weeks! Every day for about two weeks before leaving, he kept asking about the various turtles and tortoises in Arkansas. We've talked about the box tortoise, the soft-shelled turtle, the snapping turtle, and the painted turtle. Rather, En-Uk talked. Incessently. Particularly about the painted turtle, which I told him could be found in the South Fork River, a small river that flows through my hometown. Anyway, I answered his email with a slightly less concise one of my own:
Dear En-Uk,

Good luck with your efforts to catch a turtle. They might be difficult to catch in the summer. But try hard. Perhaps you will catch something else . . . such as a poisonous snake! Or an alligator. Or even a bolagator!


He's not likely to catch an alligator since they don't range that far up into Arkansas, and nobody will ever catch a 'bolagator', a mythical critter that's half alligator, half log. My cousins from South Carolina used to talk about bolagators, claiming that these critters lie quietly floating just at the water's surface, looking exactly like a log . . . until you get too close, and too late realize that it ain't no log. But he will need to watch out for poisonous aquatic snakes . . . such as the cottonmouth.

Speaking of which . . . I used to catch cottonmouths for pets when I was a kid, but I wouldn't advise En-Uk to try that.

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At 11:17 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only poisonous snake found in Michigan is the rattlesnake. I've never seen one in the wild, for they aren't too common and prefer to live in dense woodlands far from human activity. Common garters don't mind sharing living space with people. Whenever my mom could come across one in the yard, she'd holler for one of us to come and get it. We'd catch and release it into the grass across the road.

At 11:25 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

If I recall from science class, North America has only four poisonous snakes -- the two that we've mentioned, the coral snake, and another whose name escapes me.

By the way, En-Uk did actually catch a turtle. I have just received a report from my wife.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:40 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My esteemed nephew caught cottonmouth snakes? It seems this was mentioned on a previous blog, or I surmised something of the sort.
It could be that Jeffery, like Spiderman of comics and movie renown, who received his powers from a spider bite, was bitten by one of those snakes.
I once again wonder if he, like spiderman, was infected with the venom of their respective critters.
The indians used to say, "White man speaks with forked tongue."
Snakes have forked tongues and fangs fulled with venom.
Occasionally I have received the lash of nephew's tongue, and suffered the biting sting of his reproach.
It is all clear to me now.
Friends, be careful how you handle dangerous creatures.


At 9:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are two kinds of rattlesnakes that I have seen in Arkansas.
There is the common rattlesnake. I almost stepped on one as a youth.
There there is a smaller version, called the pygmy rattlesnake.
We have seen them on rare occasions. They are less than a foot long.
James' son Jefferson, saw one a year ago in the road just east of our house. He cied out, "There's a worm!" He started to try to pick it up, but James yelled, "No! that's a snake!"
Luckily, he wasn't bitten.


At 11:17 PM, Blogger jeanie oliver said...

Okay, all you native Arkansans, are we not forgetting the den of copperheads in our back woods? Which, of course, makes the Ozarks a bit snaky with 3 venom-injecting, slithering biters!

At 11:22 PM, Blogger jeanie oliver said...

Oh, I forgot, Professor, you are going to be so proud of me. I am reading Echoes, a book by Irish author, Maeve Binchy.
Page 33:"They're normal," Chrissie said. "Not following you round with whinges and whines day in day out." She is refering to the little brothers. So I always told my students that new vocabulary doesn't belong to you until you see and recognize it, and begin to use it daily. I told Eddy to stop his whinging and do the dishes!
Your forever grateful student,
Jeanie Oliver

At 3:17 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Uncle Cran, your grandson Jefferson is very lucky. Had he been bitten, he could have turned out like me -- sharp-tongued and venomous -- and then turned on you in your creeping decrepitude (itself rather serpentine, now that I think about it).

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:24 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Jeannie, perhaps the copperhead is the fourth poisonous North American snake that I couldn't recall.

Only the coral snake is not native to the Ozarks -- among the poisonous North American snakes. In that, we are indeed fortunate and should count on our blessings rather than whinge on about our curses!

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:08 AM, Blogger N.E. Brigand said...

The copperhead is almost certainly the fourth snake you were almost remembering.

In fact, there are a twenty-one species of dangerously venomous snakes in the United States, in two families: three species in the elapid family (the same group that includes mambas and cobras), and eighteen pit vipers. The former includes two species of coral snake and one sea snake (an infrequent visitor to Hawaiian shores). The latter includes sixteen species of rattlesnake, the copperhead, and the cottonmouth.

There are also several venomous species of "rear-fanged snakes" in the colubrid family (the group that includes most common non-venomous snakes, like garter snakes, corn snakes, and king snakes) but while some these species have killed people overseas --the best-known example is the boomslang of southern Africa-- none in the U.S. are considered dangerous.

Finally, there is one venomous American lizard: the Gila Monster.

At 12:19 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

N.E.B., it appears that my 'scientific' knowledge is far out of date. Memo to self: Always check the facts, for they may have changed.

Thanks for the information.

Jeffery Hodges

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