Walking out the back door, across the flagstone patio, down to the creek he saw that it had shrunk back down. The earlier heavy rain had brought the tiny creek from a foot deep to more like ten, roaring at flash flood speed over all in it's path. He watched closely along the bank, scrubbed bare now. There, just there, some oddness, a hole too big for frog or snake. He dug, and digging down found the shell. A painted turtle or what remained of one.
Some would find it grisly. To him it was a marvel of design and more. A symbol for his people, some of them, of strength and protection, even though it couldn't protect the inhabitant from the earlier flood.
Turning from the bank he caught the smell, musky and sharp, taste of an old penny on the tongue. He froze in place, knowing that taste, that smell for the only thing it could be. Cotton Mouth. It was the only creature here to be feared, killer venomous, evil tempered and devious. Picking up his staff he swiveled slowly at the waist, not daring to move his legs yet. It had to be close. After standing there, half crouched for some long minutes, sure it was not directly under foot, he retreated into the creek. If he could smell it, it probably was not in the water.
Wading back upstream towards the house he kept a sharp eye out for any movement, any sign. Finally, coming abreast of the back porch, quickly charging up the bank, glad to be getting out of the snake's territory. He carried his treasure, the new old turtle shell into the basement to be put with the other half dozen collected over the last couple of years. Some day the inspiration would come, he would know how to paint them, to bring luck, power, or perhaps just the connections with this place and his people he cherished.