Baby month

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(HOST) Commentator Willem Lange says the woods around his house are a regular nursery in June.

(LANGE) I was chugging homeward after church on a sunny Sunday noon when I saw two women standing in the road ahead waving their arms. They had several cars stopped coming from the opposite direction; I was the first in mine. I drove closer.

They were hovering over a snapping turtle in the road. Not too big: maybe a foot and a half from nose to tail tip. She couldn’t seem to decide, in the presence of so many human beings, which way to run.

I have a soft spot for turtles. Maybe because they have so few defenses against us. How many times I’ve seen their squashed carcasses in the road. Research shows that drivers will swerve out of their way to hit one. No wonder that a snapper, unable to pull itself into its shell, has a grumpy attitude and a set of jaws to match.

They’re especially vulnerable this time of year when the females, loaded with eggs, leave the water in search of sand or soft soil to dig a nest for them. That’s when you find them crossing the road; and that’s what this lady was trying to do. The two other ladies in the highway were trying to protect her and simultaneously persuade her to get it over with.

I don’t know what they thought when an old geezer in penny loafers and a blazer got out of his truck. I know what the turtle thought. She turned her long neck all the way around, and hissed at me. In a swooping grab, I got her by her dinosaur tail and lifted her clawing feet off the road. Her hooked beak made a few passes at my hand and then stretched toward my chinos. She didn’t know she was dealing with an old turtle hand. I set her in the sand under a bush, got back into the truck. Two lines of traffic started up again.

June is baby month around here. From tadpoles to white-tails, bear cubs, and moose calves, we’re crawling with kids too young to know that not all of us are friendly. One of our deer has just had her fawns in the swamp below the house. The other day there was a little spotted fawn standing in the driveway. We watched. The fawn stepped off the road and into a deep bed of ferns. It lay down and curled up, its chin flat against the ground. “If I close my eyes and lie still,” it was thinking, “then nobody can see me.” Couple nights later we saw two of them with the doe. No surprise; when the does go to feed and leave the kids, they often separate them. It’s an old survival trick. The main thing they can’t guard against is drivers with lead feet and stunted imaginations.

There’s a yellow sign on our road out here: Wildlife Crossing. I wish it were in the plural – or that, during June, at least, it could be posted on everybody’s windshield.

This is Willem Lange up in Etna, New Hampshire, and I gotta get back to work.

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