Angella Jarnagin of Danville will be featured on the season finale of “Call of the Wildman” at 10 p.m. Monday on the Animal Planet network.
Jarnagin won a yell-alike contest July 6 at the Lincoln County Fair, in which she and other contestants had to try to match the signature yell of Ernie Brown Jr., also known as Turtleman.
She and her niece, Audra Rankin, decided to enter the contest on the spur of the moment, after hearing it advertised on the radio.
“I told my niece, ‘if we get in, we might be up there for a while, so we have to be really tough,’” Jarnagin said.
She is originally from Florida but moved to Danville to live with her sister and brother-in-law on their farm, Rankin Farms LLC, to help care for her niece, who has Asperger’s syndrome, and her nephew, who has autism. Her niece scored just below Jarnagin in the yell-alike contest.
The contest took about two hours, according to Jarnagin, who says she was in dire need of water when it was over.
“It was an interesting experience,” she said.
Jarnagin has certainly had several of those when it comes to unusual animals.
Growing up, she and her siblings spent a lot of time in nature. “We were always catching snapping turtles and snakes,” Jarnagin said. When they were little, they once caught and kept a baby alligator in their bathtub, until their mother found out and made them take it back outside.
One of her favorite memories is of her father taking them for a drive one night off the main roads. Part of the way down the trail, he turned the headlights off. “I asked him how he could see, and he said to just look up.” He would use the sky as a guide to help him know where to go in the dark. They drove a distance, and, unbeknownst to Jarnagin or her siblings, they had reached the water’s edge. At that moment, he turned the headlights back on.
“You could see about 500 glowing eyes,” she said. Those eyes belonged to alligators floating in the water.
Other memories include meeting a large pack of wild boars, which, according to Jarnagin, can “kill you real quick” because they are fast; paddling in her 19-foot canoe upon a 13-foot alligator floating in the water; or the time she walked up on an indigo snake that was close to 25 feet long.
Jarnagin even caught an armadillo by the tail once while visiting friends in Georgia.
“They told us that an initiation for all visitors was that we had to catch an armadillo by the tail,” she said. “They’re not easy to catch, they’re fast. They (my friends) couldn’t believe I did it; they said no one had ever caught one before.” But Jarnagin explains that they gave her a challenge, and she’s the type of person who is going to complete the challenge.
By growing up so deeply rooted in nature at such a young age, she believes she learned to truly appreciate it.
“(My dad) always wanted us to be in touch with mother nature; to love nature and respect nature,” she said.
While living in Florida, she completed the early phases of becoming a master naturalist, the Uplands Habitats module. According to the University of Florida’s master naturalist program website, the goal of the program “is to promote awareness, understanding, and respect of Florida’s natural worlds among Florida’s citizens and visitors. It is a program that asks those who learn to the return that by helping teach another person about the natural world around them.
“Nature is an amazing learning tool,” Jarnagin said. She is currently working to become an official caregiver for her niece and is using nature to help Rankin and teach her about the world around her.
Jarnagin first met Brown in 2009 at the Lincoln County Fair. “We went in, and he was in a dunk tank with snapping turtles,” she said. Jarnagin asked him what he was doing, to which Brown responded, “I’m the Turtleman!” “I told him they should make a show about him. He said, ‘Believe it or not, they are,’” Jarnagin said. Since then, Jarnagin and her niece and nephew have been fans of the show.
“They asked me if I had practiced my yell, and I said ‘yes, ever since I first met him’,” she said.
On commercials for “Call of the Wildman,” viewers already can see Jarnagin being “dipped” by Brown while she holds the trophy.