When the uncles came to visit at the family farm, all the men would go off to the river to catch snapping turtles. One or two of those big, dull-black, ridged-back creatures would be carried home with their jaws lodged doggedly around a thick, heavy stick. One of the men would keen a knife on the foot-peddled whet-stone. A turtle’s neck would then be stretched out as far as possible by two men pulling on the ends of the stick which the turtle still firmly gripped. Then the turtle’s head would be lopped off with an axe. The keenly sharp knife would then be used to open up the vanquished creature, and the meat would be carried into the kitchen for my grandmother to wash, dust with seasoned flour and fry. We children were always warned to stay away from the lopped-off head because for a long time it could still snap anything that got too close! There was no need to warn us before the turtles were dispatched. The menacing appearance of the live turtles was warning enough! The numbers of many turtle species are now in serious decline, although I’m not sure about snappers.


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