By Baxter Black, DVM
As a veterinarian I routinely find myself sticking my hand into some animal’s mouth, giving pills, floating teeth, removing foreign objects or tickling their uvula. Not long ago I plunged my arm in a cow’s mouth (she was in a chute) to confirm my diagnosis of “rattlesnake bite on the torus linguae (dorsal hump) of her tongue.”
I carry a horse bite scar on the back of my arm from my teenage days trying to help a damsel in distress to bridle her equine! But, it can’t hold a candle to my Louisiana friend Sammy, who got bit on the ear by a yellow-bellied slider turtle. I guess it could only happen to a cowboy.
Pause a moment and try to picture how this could have happened? Was he using it to trim the hair in his ears? Did he mistake the turtle for a new smart phone? Was he listening to the turtle hum ‘Jambolaya!’ Did someone tell him if he held it to his ear he could hear the ocean? Had he finally decided he wanted to pierce one ear like Harrison Ford and Formerly Called Prince?
None of the above. Sammy was heading out with his crew to work cattle. They were in a crew cab pullin’ a gooseneck with four horses. They turned down a back road and Sammy spotted a turtle crossing the road. “Hey, Bryan, wanna turtle?” he asked.
“Shure do!” said his son. He clammered out of the back
seat, picked up the turtle, about the size of a salad plate, and climbed back in.
Back on the road Bryan was being playful with his new pet. He held it up by Sammy’s head and spoke in his best turtle-voice, “I’ve seen tectonic plates move faster than you!”
Sammy glanced in the rear view mirror just as the snapper clamped down on his right ear! He slammed on the brakes, howled and jack-knifed the rig! Sammy grabbed the turtle and pulled! Turt just mashed down harder! Sammy was turning the atmosphere blue!
“Here, maybe this will help.” Said his nephew and threw a 2-liter Big Cup of Mountain Dew on Sammy’s and the turtle’s heads!
“Do you think if you lay on the ground and I got the propane burner from the brandin’ pot…”
“I’ve got a shotgun in the…”
“They say,” said Jeb, “if a turtle bites you it won’t turn loose till lightning strikes…and there ain’t a cloud in the sky.”
Although it was an awkward procedure, and had to be repeated several times, Uncle Jeb manages to pry the turtle’s mouth open with his alligator knife. Over the next two or three weeks the swelling went down but not before the entire neighborhood was sporting bumper stickers proclaiming “FREE SAMMY! FREE SAMMY! FREE SAMMY!