They’s Seven Kinds o’meat In a Turtle

What this guy does seems sort of crazy–slogging around in shallow southern ponds, feeling for snapping turtles with his feet.

But I think back and wonder how many mossy-backs I stepped on or near in my college days in those same ponds and creeks, up to my neck in tepid water stalking snakes and frogs–often at night, mind you! I can hear it now–a chorus of narrow-mouthed, southern and fowler’s toads, hylid tree frogs: squirrel, bird-voiced, gray, and green (think Kermit ) and ranids, including but not limited to banjo and bull and bronze: all at full voice on a sultry southern Alabama night an hour’s drive from Auburn. That, and a six-pack of PBR–I tell you, life don’t get no better than that.

But I digress (imagine!) I know this guy does this mostly for the attention and his fifteen minutes of fame and for the “sport” of it, but folks down south eat “right smart” of turtle, and I was with a (toothless) old cooter back then who was a similar kind of reptile gourmet. He told me that “they’s seven kinds of meat in a turtle: they’s chicken and pork, beef and lamb, shrimp, fish, and goat.”

I found that curious, and in response to my question he told me “No, they ain’t no turtle meat in thar ‘tall.”

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. As a kid I used to catch snapping turtles from a small row boat or canoe. we used to attract them by lightly splashing the paddle and rubbing the side of the water craft to make a squeaking noise. There is nothing quite like fresh turtle meat.


  2. Hmmm… I wonder if someday, some snapping turtle will be able to tell his friends how many different kinds of meat are in that guy’s toes…

  3. Lord have mercy!!! Where do you find these crazy videos, Fred? Teeth knocked out by a chainsaw (what in the world was he doing??) and he’s plowing through algae looking for snapping turtles. Fascinating insight into some kind of culture – sure don’t know what kind, though!