I Ran Away to the Louisiana Swamp (‘Cause This Week Went to the Dogs)

Yes, it’s a long title. But it was a longer week.

I’m dealing with a problem I’ve never encountered before, and hope someone can offer advice. My two outside dogs have decided to hunt and kill the turtles in the pond. I don’t know why.  Though the dogs’ actions do further support our suspicions they’re part coyote, I know they’re not hungry; we go through Purina by the 50 lb. bag. Still, for weeks I’ve been picking up dead turtles and disposing of their gnawed upon shells. Not small turtles, either. Big turtles. Ones a friend of mine could make into turtle shell purses large enough to knock out muggers with. Ever since she did exactly that in the French Quarter with one of her creations, we’ve jokingly sized turtle shells accordingly: Medicine Pouch (small), Magickal Tools (medium), and Mugger Basher (large). 

Was up early the other morning and decided to go ahead and feed everything even though the sun wasn’t fully risen yet. After all, how much light do you need to turn on a faucet and pour grain in a horse’s bucket? 

More than I had, apparently. Stepped out the back door and into a large dead turtle. A wild heebie-jeebie squawk dance ensued. It was bad enough for the  peacocks to make it a scream quartet. They started screeching along with me before I finally regained control of myself. I’m sure my neighbors appreciated the racket.

The entire time I was trying to ease the turtle corpse into a plastic garbage bag, I was smacking the dogs with a stick every time they tried to get near it. When they gave up and backed away I thought I’d won.

Teach me to think. While I was busy disposing of this latest one with a shovel they were already down in the pond hunting another. When I say hunt, I mean they swim them down and drag them out. 

Caught the dogs with a live one the other day. Grabbed it up, and carried it to the pond–all four turtle feet stroking in the air the whole way–and tossed it as far out into the pond as I was able. (It was definitely a red ear, an aquatic critter; not a gopher turtle, a land beastie.) Up went a two foot geyser of water when it smacked down, cannon-balling in with a satisfying splash. What did the turtle do? Swam back, straight to the dogs. Broke a flip-flop blapping dogs in the face.

Hard to ignore when you’re smacked with an example of Occam’s Razor. Old Occam may have died back around 1349, but he knew his stuff. His maxim translates as the simplest theory that fits the majority of facts corresponds most closely with reality. What does that mean to me? It means the turtles in my pond may be plain old genetically suicidal.

It got to be too much, so I escaped. I needed some pictures and to refresh old experiences for a WIP, and this gave me a good excuse. I print my pics out and hang them where I can stare into them as I recall sounds and scents, winds and rustlings. Sometimes I collect bits of bark, different leaves or twigs from the surroundings. By handling them they transport me right back to the realm of their origin. It really helps to put me in the mood to write.

Come share the setting for my swamp wolves. I’m going to muddle over the email I got asking to rent my dogs for a week or so. Some guy says he has a problem with turtles eating his bait in his bass pond, and thinks they may be beneficial. Do you think he could actually be serious?  I hope he isn’t, because I wouldn’t know how much to charge!    


Open water channel through swamp.

Cypress trees, knees pushing up through the water.

Juvenile egret feeding.


Egrets gain snowy plumage at adulthood.


This is the Moonshine tree, where moonshiners used to meet to taste each others shine and declare who's was best prior to running it though Louisiana and Mississippi. The legend is so well known that the tree has been used in several Hollywood films.


Snow white wild iris grace the swamp with delicate beauty.


Grey beards of Spanish moss hang everywhere. Once a lucrative cash crop gathered as stuffing for mattresses, you still hear the phrase "Can you spot me a twenty til my moss turns black?" as a way of asking for a short term loan.


Russian boars, once domestic hogs gone feral, have multiplied to the point of devastating the swamp's ecosystem. Weighing 300 lbs or more, they are aggressive and dangerous. Admit to wishing for my rifle, just in case!


A huge 14 ft gator rests on the bank. The 'kill spot' on a gator is a quarter-sized spot on the back of their skull. To hit anywhere else results in the skull exploding, sending pieces of bone flying like shrapnel.




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