River turtle time a-comin'

By Rick Watson
Posted 5/6/18

I’m not sure what it is about this time of year, but I tend to daydream a lot. It started in grammar school. When May arrived, I knew the final day of class was approaching. It was like an itch …

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River turtle time a-comin'

Posted

I’m not sure what it is about this time of year, but I tend to daydream a lot. It started in grammar school. When May arrived, I knew the final day of class was approaching. It was like an itch that could not be scratched. I spent a lot of time with elbows propped on my desk looking out the window and dreaming of summer life.

Back then, the clocks and calendars played a cruel trick on me. They slowed enough to make the final few weeks seem longer than the previous nine months. The teachers had pretty much given up on trying to teach anything meaningful. In fact, I often saw them gazing out the windows at things only they could see. 

One of my May daydreams was about river turtles. You know those critters that line up with their friends on dead limbs hanging over creek banks. They all take a nap in the warm spring sun and let life flow by underneath them. I wanted to be a river turtle.

This week while driving I pulled into a roadside park not far from where I live. The road to the park leads down the roadbed for the old Highway 78. Back in the day, the 78 ambled from Memphis through Alabama, Georgia, and on to Charleston, South Carolina. Near Graysville, the old highway crosses a concrete bridge over Five-Mile Creek. The county placed giant boulders blocking the entrance to the bridge so that cars couldn’t drive across it. It was a sunny day, and I had a little time to kill, so I parked and walked mid-bridge to have a look.

The water was clear. Beneath the moss-green surface, I could see small-mouth bass and bream in a feeding frenzy. Further up the creek where the sun fell on the water, a dead sapling leaned about halfway across the stream and just above the surface. The afternoon sun was warm. Seven turtles were lined up lazing on the limb. Leaning on the guardrail, I stood for a long time absorbing all Mother Nature had to offer on that warm spring day. 

The scene reminded me of the place where I fished when I was younger. We called it the Backwater. The body of water is a slough (some would call it a lake) formed where Horse Creek flows into the Black Warrior River below Dora. The Slough is about 500 acres of shallow water with a carpet of lily pads. 

Those pads are a perfect sanctuary for large-mouth bass, bluegill, and cottonmouth moccasins. The cottonmouths usually mean a hard pass on the area for most people. I can tell you from experience that they are great for testing reflexes and coronary health when you happen upon one of those slithering devils. But, the slough is a great place to catch your limit in spring and summer. I’ve also seen hundreds of lazy turtles lined up on logs like a traffic jam. Sunbathing turtles remind me that summer is around the corner. 

Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book Life Goes On is available on Amazon.com. You can contact him via email at rick@homefolkmedia.com.