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The first time I met Ernie Brown Jr., a.k.a. Turtleman, he swept me off my feet.
He does that to many women, apparently. In fact, it's become one of his signature moves. And it's just one of the many reasons why he's become a worldwide sensation.
Sure, he catches snapping turtles and other wild creatures with his bare hands, but I've discovered that his fans love him for many other reasons besides his turtle catching abilities.
During the past few weeks, I have communicated with many Turtleman fans. And I've noticed that Turtleman fans run the gamut. They are from all over the world, and are all different ages, sizes and ethnicities.
I was especially surprised by the number of little girls that love Turtleman. When I was their age, I loved Debbie Gibson. These days, the Turtleman is many little girls' idol. I have to admit, that seems a little crazy to me. Or, as the Turtleman would say, that's "crazy, baby."
But, don't get me wrong. I don't mean "crazy" in a bad way. I just never dreamed more than three years ago when the Turtleman was dancing a jig with me that he would become such a phenomenon. I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would see him on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno not once, but twice! And, I certainly never imagined he would one day have his very own television show.
But, he's accomplished all of that and more.
And he's done it by simply being himself, which is another reason why he's so adored by millions across the world. What you see is what you get with Ernie. He doesn't try to be someone he's not. And, I admire that quality in him, too.
But, it wasn't until this past month's preparations for this week's special Turtleman edition did I truly realize how loved the Turtleman truly is... it's mind-boggling. I wonder if Ernie, himself, truly realizes how much he is loved?
Don't believe me?
One visit to his Facebook page and you'll see what I mean. Last week, I posted a photo of a local fan with Turtleman on the Call of The Wildman - Turtleman Facebook page, and asked his fans to tell me why they adore him so much. More than 530 people commented and more than 4,000 people "liked" the post.
I posted the same thing on The Lebanon Enterprise's Facebook page, and 81 people commented and 83 people "liked" the post. That is, by far, the most activity we've ever had on our Facebook page. Just posting the word "Turtleman" sends people into a frenzy!
I also invited people to send me Turtleman fan photos and I would print as many of them as possible this week. Well, after receiving approximately 100 photos, my email inbox finally recovered. Every morning when I would press the "send and receive" button I swear I could hear Turtleman's infamous yell "YEE YEE YEE" coming from my computer's speaker. Or, was that me?
I hope you enjoy this week's special "Live Action" edition of The Lebanon Enterprise.
Below are some of the comments about the Turtleman the Enterprise received on our Facebook page. I don't have space to publish all of them. So, fill free to "like" us on Facebook and read to your heart's content.
In the meantime, make sure to tune into the season finale of the "Call of the Wildman" at 10 p.m., this Sunday, Sept. 2, on Animal Planet.
As for me, I'm all turtled out. I need some time to recuperate from all this "Live Action."
Turtleman Facebook fans comments:
Amy Johnson: He has so little and does so much with what he has and he cares for the animals but the main thing is he has a heart as big as the state of Kentucky.
Marilyn Horton Barker: I LOVE him because of his heart and honesty... I love his momma, too! He truly cares for the animals he rescues.
Paula Jane Gray Hunter: I love Turtleman because he makes all the kids in my school happy! All ages k-12 love to make his call. He's a good role model for them with no drugs, alcohol or tobacco.
Cynthia Sue Brown: He's a real person with a great heart for animals and people!!! And he's a great dancer/dipper too!! I know!
Kimberly Browder Dunn: Because he is a real American! He is always kind to the elderly and thinks about the kiddos. And loves his momma, he is the American man!
Brittney Duggan: I like Turtleman because he is true to his self doesn't put on an act or play fake in front of the camera. More shows should heed this advice.
Lori Propst Hostetter: Because he is the real deal! An all around good guy with a heart and soul for all of God's creatures (animals and humans)! We need more people like him in this world!
Jmark Ma: I like all of the guys because they are humble, hard working and down to earth; very real. Live Action!!!
Molly Runyon: Just a cool crazy country dude, what is there not to like?
CJ Dotter: He's Turtle - Tastic.
Gary Lamph: He's happy, entertaining, down to earth, original, and he's got guts! He and his team rock!
Bri Anne: The turtle team has a heart of gold. To love unconditionally is to love without expecting anything back in return. This is true about everyone on the turtle team who genuinely cares for each and every animal they come across! Thank you for that.
Shanna Sikes-Ingraham: We love you guys because you are passionate about what you do and you are teaching children and adults about animals and that they are beneficial to our land, to not kill them just because they exist... we came in on them, they are not moving in on us and I appreciate that about you all. We also love the old time music, I am from Galax Va., home of the old time fiddlers convention, and listening to Neal brings back great memories of my home. I am so grateful that my son chooses such amazing people to look up to on TV. We love you all because you are you!
Ellee English: I love Turtle man because whenever I'm having a bad day, I come home and watch him and my day gets 100 times better. LIVE ACTION!
Eric Carpenter: We love the Turtleman for his "Live Action" family friendly show and because Neil, Squirrel, and Jake are just as much fun as Ernie is. Put them together and you have a can't miss family show on Sunday nights. All the way from Arizona and the U.S. Army, we love Team Turtle!
Monique Richards Jarrell: Without getting too gushy, I would have to say that under that rough and tough exterior is a man who is not unlike St. Francis of Assisi who counted the animals of the forest among his friends. His feast day is I believe, Oct. 4. He spoke to the animals. Not like in a cooky way, but the way the Turtleman does, with a deep understanding and respect for God's living creatures. The Turtleman does not appear to me to have allowed his fame to go to his head. He is genuine and true to himself. What an awesome role model for our children. His humility and jovial spirit are so amicable that you can't help but want to keep watching him and his show. I just love him and so do my boys (husband included)!! We may argue over what we're going to watch on TV, but then when we see Turtleman is on, we can ALL agree on that show. Just can't wait to see what he's going to do next! And I mean that in the kindest way! God love him!
Mary Dean Krug: I could almost write a book on "Why I Love The Turtleman"! Aside from the sheer entertainment value of the show (which is outdone by none!); he sets great standards for young and old alike. He respects the clients and their homes/property. He interacts honestly with each person and is always a man of his word. He certainly seems to be fearless and no job is beneath him. He cares deeply for all wildlife and reassures us each time that the animal is not being harmed. He does all of this in a selfless way that I greatly admire!
Susan Berry: Our family discovered Turtleman this past summer and have been fans ever since. My daughter loves watching him help the animals. The love and compassion Turtleman displays for the animals he helps is wonderful to see - and sets a great example for children (and adults). When you watch Turtleman what you see is what you get - he keeps it simple, genuine and real. Team Turtle does the job with good hearts and a bit of humor. We also love how the folks in southern Ky are shown in such a positive way. The show is great family viewing - probably the best thing since Mayberry.