So, 2019 is the year of the TURTLE.

Turtle crossing Lakeview West.

Many of you know I grew up at Clark Lake. I love turtles, well almost all of them.

I now live in Virginia and I still respect turtles. I am in the real estate business.  As I was on the road to check out one of our properties, there was a turtle in the road. I swerved, but the car following me did not.  I heard a sickening crunch. I was devastated.  Days later I encountered two more. I stopped and moved them to the woods with a stick.  Days later, another.

Clark Lake—what a wonderful place to grow up, and now a great place to live.  It’s a rare day that I don’t think about and recall memories of the lake.

Belcher garage and cottage from driveway, looking toward lake

Turtles at Clark Lake were fun, most of the time.

Beckey & Angela Ligibel, Brandi Zak on the Ligibel dock in 2014

Our cottage was on the east side of Eagle Point.  South of us was “The Turtle Patch.”  Traveling in a boat from north to south to the turtle patch, the water became increasingly shallow.  Unsuspecting renters would be shocked when their motors hit bottom. Suddenly the motor would go from a steady growl to a roar. My brother, Rick, would wait for that moment, and rescue the now-stranded boater by repairing their shear pin.  The newcomer to the lake would gratefully pay him.

Watching turtles turned into catching them.  Next door, Ligibel’s dock had steps. Turtles would sun on them.  We would sneak up on them and grab them. Great fun.  When our hunt expanded to the turtle patch, you could see an armada of paddle boards (not like today’s versions) heading that way. 

Paddle boards came in different styles. Leutz’s had a red one with a tail that narrowed to a point. 

Photo of Leutz paddle board in August 1969.  Richard Swain and friend.

My Dad built one in the basement of our house in Toledo.  It was decorated with painted-on polka dots.

Rick Belcher,and his sister Amy, lift the new paddle board out of the basement window of their Elmhurst Road home in Toledo where their father, Ern, had built it.

 My friends and I spent many hours on our paddle boards.  Once I tried to barefoot off of it.  That’s another story, and not a good one.

Buzz Belcher and cousin Ted Ligibel

We would also go turtle hunting in a canoe.  That was more convenient.  It could hold our catch as we returned to the cottage.  Once there, we set up a race course on the front lawn to see which would be the fastest. We’d also mark them with fingernail polish and let them go.  That way we would know if we had caught them before.

Earlier I said that I love turtles, “almost all of them.”  Here’s how I learned about exceptions. I was at the Big Rock chasing a turtle. It was a rubber-back.  It turned on me.  If you are hunting turtles for fun, do not go after rubber-backs.  Their necks are long and flexible.  Their jaws are strong and razor-sharp.  They will bite you.  They will win!

Good and Safe Hunting to all present-day turtle hunters.

–Buzz Belcher (aka Ricky’s Lil Brother)

Other stories about turtles:

Greg Christman

George Hill tells how a swan and turtle met.  It did not go well for the swan.