In A Pickle  

Little girl's swampy paradise

With bullet speed, the junior Western Painted turtle back flipped to safety.  

Len and I were awestruck by the shelled wonder’s agility. It catapulted off the log and plummeted into the murky water. 

 Who knew a turtle could travel that fast?

With those kinds of moves, I was half expecting the wee one to swim to shore brandishing teeny nunchucks, and whack me on the big toe in true Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle style. 

Just so you know, I wasn’t having flashbacks from psychedelics of the 70s; rather the idea came from watching the Ninja Turtle movie on video tape.

Alas, some 300 times or more with my then young children. 

The kids memorized the script and repeated all the lines of every single character in sync.

Nevertheless, my mind snapped back to the present, as I photographed the nimble creature as it crawled back up onto the log. 

Had I found it as a child, though I would have tried to catch it in a net and take it home as my latest pet.

Back in the '60s and '70s, I loved playing in the slough on the Alberta prairies.

I spent a lot of time alone, walking along the railroad tracks, which was both comforting and lonely. 

The acrid smell of tar and grease filled my nostrils as I trod the tracks and played hopscotch, jumping between the ties, while grasshoppers leapt out of the way, and chirped in annoyance. 

Catching those green, leggy, alien-like insects, was a challenge; they were fast, and would pee on my hands, or rather regurgitated brown liquid.

Hence, it usually got a wing pulled off for its escape efforts, and stuffed into a pickle jar with holes punched in the lid for air. 

After that, I’d venture off the tracks, into the nearby slough. 

The wetlands is the romantic terminology now, but was just a slough back then. It was my playground/refuge; a jungle of tall, brown grass, pussy willow bushes, cat tails, and a pool of stagnant putrid water.   

I’d explore the pond on a make-shift raft, which I’d sometimes sink and have to swim for it.

The swamp was home to all kinds of aquatic creatures that slithered and swam, but also for me, a four-eyed, stringy haired, little girl in hand-me-down clothes, with my feet stuffed into plastic bread bags, in leaky rubber boots. 

Once I brought a hatchling garter snake home to scare my mom; I chuckled with delight at her shrieks as it wormed its way between my fingers and up my arm.   

Other times, I gave her wild flowers, to which, unbeknownst to me, she was allergic. 

At night, from my open bedroom window, I could hear the red-tipped, black birds and tiny, brown frogs serenading me. 

By day, I became the frog whisperer, which my kids dubbed me, a few decades later. 

I imitated the frog’ croak until one continually answered. Hence, I could zero in on its location, and put it in the jar, with the grasshoppers, flies and water spiders. 

The frog must have been thoroughly disappointed to find his hopeful mate he sang to, turned out to be me, a human child holding him prisoner. 

Stinky water, grass and small rocks were provided in their cell, and I would then hide my jar of creepy crawly treasures under my bed and wriggle in beside, to watch the frogs, hoping they’d eat the bug buffet. 

But my grumpy Dad, awakened by a chorus of ribbits, released them into the night — and the turtle or any other creatures I had collected, that hopped, slithered, crawled, flew, or walked on all fours. 

I still find marsh lands a pleasant place to visit, and a source of comfort.  

I also enjoy vicariously watching frog predators on TV stalk their cricket prey. 

Some things never change.


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About the Author

Doreen Zyderveld-Hagel writes about the humour in every-day life, and gets much of her inspiration from the late Erma Bombeck’s writing style. 

Doreen also has a serious side, shares her views on current events, human-interest stories and sometimes the downright bizarre. 

She can be reached at [email protected]

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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