The Way It Was – Turtle soup

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Editor’s note: This is another column in Bill Boyd’s new series, “The Way It Was,” about growing up in Marysville. Bill continues to work with the Union County Historical Society to obtain information for his stories. With Marysville and Union County celebrating Bicentennial anniversaries in 2019 and 2020, respectively, these articles help depict what life was like in those early years.
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My dad loved the out-of-doors. Whenever he had some free time, he spent it hunting, fishing or trapping. Then one day he attended some sort of “Game Supper” that was held in a small country church not far from Marysville. The meal featured wildlife from central Ohio – fish and game animals like pheasant and rabbit.
One of the dishes served was some sort of turtle soup, and my dad thought it was pretty good so he decided to add turtle hunting to his outdoor activities. I don’t think he had ever hunted turtles, so he wasn’t sure what the best way was to go about it. Oh, he had caught a few turtles when he was fishing, but that was pretty much by accident, and it happened only rarely.
So he talked with a man named Fancy, who lived on Walnut Street. He was known to be a turtle hunter. I think he was Marysville’s “turtle expert.” He explained the basics of turtle hunting to my dad, and he referred him to a man who made and sold “turtle spuds.”
Spuds were used to catch turtles. My dad bought one of them, and he showed it to me. It was a wooden pole, about five feet long. At one end was a steel rod, maybe 12 or 18 inches long. At the other end were a couple of small steel hooks.
Mister Fancy explained that the best place to hunt turtles was in the small streams that emptied into creeks. Hard-shell, snapping turtles loved to wallow in the mud there.
The procedure was to walk through the small streams and look for mounds of mud at their edges. The big snapping turtles covered themselves with mud. That’s where the steel rod was used. When you saw a mound of mud, you poked it with that steel rod. When it made contact, you could tell immediately if you had hit a solid rock or a turtle.
If it was a turtle, you quickly turned the spud around, and used the two hooks at the other end to flip the turtle over on its back. Then you could reach in and pick it up. But above all else, you had to be careful because snapping turtles had powerful jaws, and you could lose a couple of fingers very easily.
On my dad’s second or third turtle hunting trip, he did bring one home. I think he was pleased with that, but he really wasn’t sure how to clean and dress it. So he went to talk with Mr. Fancy, who showed him how to do it. He followed Mr. Fancy’s instructions, and then my mother made some turtle soup.
My dad’s turtle hunting didn’t last too long, just for the rest of that summer. He said it wasn’t nearly as much fun as fishing and hunting. Actually, I was glad to see that. I didn’t want to see him lose any fingers.
On top of that, I always liked turtles. In fact, I once had a pet turtle. I bought it at the Union County Fair, and it had an American flag painted on its shell. So it just didn’t seem right to eat an animal that could be somebody’s pet. Besides, I didn’t think turtle soup was that good anyway.
Those wishing to contact Bill Boyd can e-mail him at bill@davidwboyd.com



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