A vernal pond is not a full-time pond. It’s a pond during wet, particularly spring, weather. The rest of the time it’s a mud-hole, which is what makes it so appealing to young boys. I know this because I have such a pond in my yard and two such boys in my family.
One spring when my older son was about eight, he put on his shiny royal blue vinyl Land’s EndTM snow boots, which were slated to be passed down to his younger brother, and went into the muck to catch a few frogs. If you’ve ever ventured into such a pond in the spring, you’ve no doubt experienced the sensation of suction as you step into the mud. This might indicate the need for caution to us adults, but to an eight year old boy, rendered invincible by his calf-high boots, the suction just makes it more fun – even when his foot comes out of one of the boots.
My son came up to the kitchen, which required a trek across the living room, covered in mud, to announce the loss with an ‘oh-well, what-can-you-do, no-use-crying-over-spilled-milk’ tone of voice. Not liking his cavalier attitude, I sent him back to the pond and told him to stay there until the boot was found. His dad went down to supervise and make sure he was indeed looking for the boot and not for more frogs while I cleaned up the mud he’d already tracked in.
My husband soon came in to report that after 10-15 minutes of dredging up assorted sticks and roots, our son had a Eureka moment. “I got it!” he shouted gleefully as he tore the long sought after object from the greenish-brown slime. As he held it out triumphantly at chest level, he and his dad had quite a revelation. My son wasn’t holding a boot. He had unearthed a large snapping turtle.
I’m not sure how one confuses the round, hard, algae encrusted shell of a snapper with the pliable vinyl of relatively unblemished (up to that day) snow boot. I also sincerely hope that the turtle didn’t suffer much during his flight and subsequent landing back into the pond. I can report, however, that the following fall my younger son did not have to wear hand-me-down snow boots. He had a brand new pair all his own.
© Laura Hedgecock 2009