Maria and Mario are addicts and I don’t think there is any treatment. They cannot stop watching The Call of the Wildman on Animal Planet.
I am at a loss on how to describe this show. It centers around a man from Kentucky who specializes in catching wild critters, especially turtles. The intro shows us Turtleman in the swamp with arms stretched in a yoga pose concentrating on the wildlife in the swamp. It continues with clips of Turtleman catching a possum, a fox, a racoon, and a snake – all with his bare friends. Then the announcer’s voice pokes through “For as long as anyone can remember, when someone in Kentucky has an animal problem, they call the Turtleman.” A woman sitting on her porch tells us that Turtleman “caught his first turtle at age 7” and he had a connection with these animals. Next thing you know, you see Turtleman kissing a large snapping turtle and turning to the camera with his big ol’ smile and his missing teeth.
At first, I was skeptical. A four and six-year-old watching a show about a critter catcher from Kentucky? But he endears himself to you quickly and I find myself rooting for him even though I am sure much of the captures are staged. The kids are mesmerized by his actions. Every time I feel bad for the critter being caught, they reassure me that Turtleman loves the animals and always releases them in the wild. Sure enough, when I watched the end of one show, there was Turtleman against the peach sunset, letting a fox out of his cage to run free through the forest. Tender music and tears welled up in Turtleman’s eyes. I look over at Maria and her face turns empathetic and concerned.
“See, mom, he cares about animals and he helps people get rid of them so they won’t hurt the animals on their property.”
Meanwhile, Mario is standing up in the family room with his arms stretched out like Turtleman’s arms in the beginning of the show. He concentrates his eyes ahead and says “There is a man in Kentucky who is wild. He catches wild animals… and he does it with his bare hands.” Maria and I chuckle. He turns to us with his most serious face and declares “I could be Turtleman.”
On one drive home from capturing a wild critter, Turtleman had an apple pie in the front seat of his truck that he had gotten as a gift from the house owner who had trouble with the critter before Turtleman showed up. Turtleman scoops up a piece of pie with his hands and shovels it in his mouth. Then he feeds his dog in the back of his truck a piece of pie from his hand. Yummy. Just as long as Maria doesn’t start eating in that fashion at school, I guess we’ll let them keep watching.