By Chad Hobbs
When a man walks into a room wearing camo pants with a large Bowie knife on his hip, an Indian bead necklace, and a black leather hat with a raccoon tail hanging off the back, he tends to stand out. When he also lets out a wildman yodel/yelp, he really stands out. Well, that is unless your name is Ernie “the Turtleman” Brown, Jr. In Brown’s case, it is his signature style, and there was no mistaking who had walked through the door last Wednesday, when he made his way to the Kentucky Land Company office in Irvington.
He had come to meet with brothers Danny and Derrick Board in search of “Turtlezilla.” The Board’s own and operate Board Livestock Farms, which straddle the Meade-Breckinridge County line. Their cattle pastures offered Brown a smorgasbord of ponds to look for a legendary sized snapping turtle, and it didn’t take long for him to find one suitable to explore. Stripped down to his camo pants, the Turtleman raced to the water with his signature yelp trailing behind, as he sprinted towards a snapping turtle’s bubble trail he had spotted in the middle of the pond. It took no time at all until he was working a snapper towards the bank with his bare hands, pronouncing, “We have some live action right here!” Sticking his head under a mass of algae to find the animal’s head, Brown snatched the turtle from the water with his yelp filling the air.
This is much the way it went for the rest of the afternoon. Using only his hands to poke and prod through thick aquatic vegetation at times, Brown pulled several “slider” turtles out of multiple ponds along with several snappers as well. He even went so far as to take the largest snapper he caught that day, “hypnotized” it, and reached down holding the snapper’s mouth shut, as he kissed it repeatedly on the nose.
Brown hopes to start a new web based show later this year. He made it clear that he plans on coming back to continue his search for the big one that got away in a deep water pond that day with his film crew. The Lebanon, Kentucky native seemed quite satisfied with the snapping turtle presence in the area and confident that there was a big one to be caught.
The Turtleman became a household name during Brown’s four seasons staring in the Animal Planet series “Call of the Wildman.” After spending half the afternoon with him, I will say that the man on that show and the man in real life is one in the same. It’s not an act for an audience; it’s just who the man is. Whether talking about wrestling a kangaroo; the deaths of his sidekicks, Squirrel and Neal, his dog, Lolly and sister, all last year; or any of his other adventures, he always finds a way to keep his tone upbeat and with a smile on his face with foul language never present regardless of the topic of his excitement. He is just a genuine man, through and through. What you see is what you get regardless of how big or small his audience may be. Which is leaves no surprise as to why adults, children, and even this reporter who tagged along all left that day with nothing but admiration for the Turtleman that day.
If you would like to see footage of Turtleman snatching snappers from the Board’s pond last week, you can go to the Messenger’s webpage, www.meadecountyky.com, and view a condensed video of the “live action.”