It's still high summer but this is when I start feeling the downhill slide into fall. It's dark and cloudy with rain threatening which does not help my anxiety. Rain is okay - funny how we dread the rain when we're trying to get hay in, then desire it when we want a second cut to grow. Still can't get over how lush the lower pasture is, with clover, flowers and dark green grass still growing. The sheep are funny grazers, leaving tunnels around clumps of green growth here and there. Even the tunnels have carpets of clover in them. This time last year the lower pasture was dust, with the sheep going up top for something to eat, preventing us from getting a second cut in. Grass is life and hay sustains it through the winter. I'm loving my mornings, doing chores and walking the dogs in my jammies, watching the news, spinning wool, playing with the dogs and kitties, sewing, cooking eggs for myself, and generally wallowing in the freedom I will no longer have in September. We walk up the hill and around the pond twice a day - my spa walk I call it. No spa could be as beautiful. Yesterday we reached the pond and Bertha waded in for her swim. She paddled around a while then started our walk around when we all froze. There was a snapping turtle taking a sun bath. I flashed back to three or four years ago when we found a snapper in the same spot. She was dry and lifeless, perhaps after a long trip somewhere to lay her eggs. I read that snappers go back to the same spot they were born to lay their eggs, and that they like to do it in plowed fields. Plenty of that around here. The dogs were getting too close and started harassing it, so I impulsively pushed it into the pond with my foot. Here we are, years later, only this turtle looked healthy and fine, with bright yellow eyes and great big feet, long tail and tough hard shell. Bertha and Cooper, on leashes kept their distance but leaned forward to sniff the beast. Reba, not leashed because she never runs away, ran right in to get a closer look. The turtle shot into the pond, obviously at home where she lives. I think the turtle I found years ago just decided to stay and thrived. Yikes, to think we have been blissfully ignorant of who was living in the mud while we walked on the bottom of the pond. It's safe to say I will be floating on top, on my raft, after having pushed off from the shore, with my toes pointed out of the water. There's a lot for that snapper to eat in the pond, even with the heron that keeps visiting us, including my lovely gold fish. I wonder if that snapper got my Goldie? I love wildlife in all forms. I have a healthy fear of snappers having grown up on the South Branch of the Raritan River in New Jersey. The babies would bite our fish hooks, and we couldn't get the hooks out of them as they were snapping at our fingers. All we could do was cut the line and let them go. My father, The Shooter, was after a giant snapper who, he told us, was pulling ducks underwater to eat, and would surely get our dog, Andy. His .45 shells bounced off the monster's shell he told us. As little kids you can imagine how this turtle took on exponential proportions in our minds. The years passed and I've had more encounters with snappers, even picking one up on my way to work at Voorhees High School and taking it home with me to safety in a pond. And then, oh Lord, there was the time I was home tutoring a student in Califon who broke his back in a quad accident. A little brother came into the living room to tell us there was a big turtle in the garage. Low and behold, there was a big snapping turtle in the garage. I was afraid to leave the house after tutoring as I did not trust my student home alone with his little brother and that turtle. This kid was a real piece of work. I figured he was the one who captured the beast and put it in the garage. I was more worried about little brother. I got a garbage can and pointed the open end at the turtles head. I pushed the can as far as I could under the shell, ran around behind it, and put my foot on the shell to get it farther inside the can. This turtle was so heavy it took all three of us to get the can upright and drag it to the car. We hoisted the can up into the truck and drove down the pasture in back of their home to the river where I suspect my student found this turtle. We rolled the can into the water and the turtle crawled out. Whew! I wonder whatever happened to that kid. I don't remember his name, as so much of my life is being lost to faded memory. That's one reason why I'm writing these silly little stories down. I have other snapping turtle stories, but there are needy animals in the barn and I'm still in my nightie at ten twenty three in the morning. What if the FBI, or yahoos looking for scrap metal came knocking at the door? What would they think? Do I really care?