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There is a reason Ernie Brown Jr. is called Turtleman

July 23, 2006|LIZ MAPLES

GRAVEL SWITCH - If toilets on wheels racing toward a country store is not the oddest oddity in Casey County, try Ernie Brown Jr. He makes Crocodile Dundee look timid.

Brown, who is known as Turtleman, will be the grand marshal of the Outhouse Blowout at Penn's Country Store Sept. 9, and he plans to bring along his turtle shells and turtle tales.

From his neck to his toes, he is dressed in camouflage, and he tops it off with a leather cowboy hat trimmed with a band of turtle tail leather and snapping turtle claws. He yelps when he is excited and is as good a storyteller as he is a turtle catcher.

There is the time someone robbed him of every cent and arrowhead he owned. It was the same day his wife left him because he had lost his teeth in an accident. And that was the same day he left to go live in the woods for six months.

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"Everyone thought I died in a pond catching turtles," he said, laughing a bit to himself.

On a hot August day, he decided it was time to go home, so he got out on the road.

While he was walking toward Lebanon, he found a paper advertising an arrowhead show in Elizabethtown. After going home, he and his friend went to the arrowhead show.

Turtle tales

That was where he laid eyes on an angel. His friend told him there was no way he could get that girl. He courted her, wrote to her, danced with her and courted her some more. She is still his girlfriend to this day. These are the stories he tells that make a person laugh, think and cry a bit all at the same time. Then there are the turtle tales.

There was the time a Lexington television crew took him from pond to pond until he caught a 40-pound snapper near the Versailles castle. Brown catches turtles like his dad and uncle taught him, using his bare hands. He dives into ponds, feeling around the murky water with his hands and looking for bubbles.

The bubbles come up to the surface above where a snapping turtle is resting. He'll swim to the bubbles and either rush the turtle from the rear or stand on it. He always tries to wrestle turtles by the tail.

On a recent sultry day, Brown had the 40-pound turtle out at Penn's. He was handling it by its tail and making it snap twigs in half, all for the pleasure of watching the onlookers' faces.

"I don't drink. I don't do drugs. This is my adrenaline rush," he said. "I'm high on life."

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