Sometimes dreams do come true, like the time that I wrote about Ernie “The Turtleman” Brown Jr. and he came to our office and hung out and visited with us all day. The Turtleman, if you’re unfamiliar, is the host and star of “Call of the Wildman,” an awesome show on Animal Planet. In it, The Turtleman traps all manner of wild animals and safely removes them from people’s yards, houses and swamps (some people have swamps). His catchphrase is “Live action!” which he will shout at you with a joy and exuberance most of us reserve for our favorite bands or gifts under the tree on Christmas morning. Not Turtleman. He lives every day like this, and watching him catch possums, or remove snakes, is totally entertaining!
We talked to The Turtleman about turtles, life in his native Kentucky, and asked him for dating and relationship advice. Because, we figured, chasing turtles all those years is bound to teach you a thing or two. See what he had to say, after the jump!
How did you get involved in the turtle biz?
When I was five, my grandpa had a magazine sitting on the table. It was called the Rolling Stone magazine. I said, “Wow, grandpa and grandma, how do you get on there? I want to be on there.”
I was looking for my talents. I was shooting slingshots, bow and arrows. I always wanted to be famous. When I got to be seven years old, my uncle Phillip came. We ran out of food. And we went into the woods and went to this pond and he said, “There’s some food in this pond.” I said, “How?” My dad wouldn’t let me go at first, I was a little brat kid. Phillip bubbled under a turtle and pulls it up and man, it was live action. He put it in the bag. He put me in and I tug-of-warred with a turtle for two hours and I’ve been hooked ever since. I knew I had a talent.
How did the show come about?
I was in Point Pleasant, West Virginia, doing a side show. I was trying to get famous. People would call me to do a show. I’d try to get money to get gas. So I’d get my set up, a dollar to pay to see the turtles, and people would say, “This is the best damned dollar I’d ever spent in my life.”
I was doing my thing and I met them there. They got to be my friends. They said they’d been looking for me for two years. And in 2011 Animal Planet had my show. I really had to discipline myself with a film crew. I didn’t know what it took to be, uh, gentlemanly. I always have been nice,. I don’t drink or do drugs. You got to get every angle. I’m catching this animal and it’s fighting for its life and they’re trying to get every angle and telling me “You gotta let it go!” and I can’t let it go.
People have been calling me ever since I was a kid to catch these animals. And turtles are my specialty. Turtles are what got me to where I am today.
You have a dog, Lolly, and two cats. Can a dog person and a cat person ever really make it work?
Yeah, it could work. My cats love my dog, They hug on one another. My dog protects my cats. I got on them the other day, I said, “You’re making dogs look bad, you’re sitting there hugging the cats. You’re not even scared of the dog, you’re making the cats look bad!” I talk to ‘em all the time. They love each other. I also got a pet snake, but it’s not a pet snake, it’s a wild snake but it lives in my house.
Do you have people that recognize you on the street now? Groupies?
Oh yeah, I got Turtle Turtle Style girls. They’re groupies. They bid on me in an auction and I think I made $750. It’s gonna be on the show.
What do you look for in a girl?
I dunno. Not cussin’. Not violent. Just gettin’ out there with me and catchin’ animals with me. Going fishing, hiking. Anything live action. That’s how I met the girl I’m with today. I been with her for three weeks.
All my life I only met one girl, in ’87. We stayed together for 14 years. Her name’s Debbie. We had two kids. She left me ’cause I got my teeth knocked out with a chainsaw. Then I had a truck wreck that busted them up again. Broke my jaw. And, uh, then I was building a building that had a big tank at the bottom that blowed up and it threw a wrench through the roof and hit me in the mouth again, that’s why I got those stitches right there. It knocked my bottom teeth out. I still got the bottom ones. Debbie left me. She said, “I’m not being married any longer to a guy that’s got no teeth.” I didn’t take her seriously, but evidently she was serious.
But we all get along now. I pay anything they need. I pay my child support. We all get along for Christmas. No fighting or arguing. That’s what I want outta any girl. I can’t stand drama.
That sounds kind of like a turtle.
No drama here. I just like to be live action, full of fun. And if we get mad at each other over something stupid, just say, “I am sorry. Let’s do what you want to do.” Work with someone.
So that’s the key to a good relationship?
Yeah, work together. Respect each other. Have fun. And have live action. If you gotta, fight somebody. I don’t believe in ownin’ no girl. And I don’t believe in anybody ownin’ me.
Do you have any tips on how to best handle relationships and dating?
Yeah. Always tell a man when he does a hard day’s work how good he feels at the end of the day and that he did a good job. And pat him on the back and kiss him on the jaw, and you’ll get just about anything you want.
“Call of the Wildman”‘s second season debuts Sunday, June 3 at 10 p.m. EST on Animal Planet.
Before their interview, The Turtleman insisted on showing Julie his moves on the dance floor. I filmed it. — Editor