The Richmond Register

Lifestyles & Community

July 17, 2013

Catching turtles is an art that ends a good meal

NEWBY — Turtle hunting, or turtling, has been around as far back as 5,000 B.C. There are many techniques. Some use poles to check the banks, some go in with just their hands, which seems to be the favorite because of the challenge. It’s also dangerous.

My father-in-law, James Prewitt, and his friends, Ray Davis and Jack Barnes, loved going on the hunt for “the big one.” Their favorite spots were Muddy Creek, Otter Creek and Hanger’s Lake. Zeke and Oscar Simpson were also known as good turtlers.

Buck decided he wanted to learn how it was done and went along on one of the hunts. He was 10 or 11 years old at the time. He was made the “bagger” that day.  The men would crawl along the bank feeling for a hole where a turtle might be hiding, reach in and if a turtle was in there, drag him out.

This is where the danger comes in. You have to run your hand along the shell and feel for the bumps along its tail and back, grab hold and pull hard. Many turtlers have lost fingers at this point because they weren’t holding it just right, or maybe lose their grip and the turtle would bite a finger right off.

Once caught, it was Buck’s job to be ready with the sack. He learned, after the second turtle went in the bag, to float the bag in the creek because it got heavy fast.

At the end of the day, the bag had to be dragged to the truck. Some of the larger ones would crawl over the back of the truck trying to escape. When the truck pulled in the drive, the dogs would hear them crawling around in the bed of the truck and would set up quite a noise.

The catch would be nailed to a board or a tree and the neck, legs and liver removed for eating.

Edith Prewitt would invite friends and neighbors for a feast of fried turtle, biscuits and gravy.  No paper napkins were available back then so they just tossed a towel from one end of the table to the other (or licked their fingers) and had a great time.

Buck loved that gravy and also the liver, but never cared much for the turtle.

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