Fish and two turtles

In the middle of a shoot my phone rings: The caller is someone who rarely reaches out in the evening unless it’s an emergency. I excuse myself and check the voicemail: “Turn on the news.”

Donald Trump has given highly classified information to the Russians. In any normal frame of reference, this is indeed an emergency.

Not this time.


The night before, I saw a large snapping turtle swimming in a lake. On land they are hideous, vehement creatures. I’ve only seen one in that context: It was crossing the road in front of a general store, lunging at everyone who tried to help it. And I know where there’s a dead one right now, washed up against a sewer pipe and stinking.

But alive and in the water, the snapping turtle was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. Graceless, yet suspended by grace.


I have no problem believing the WaPo story about Trump. The trap set before us is that of falling to the other side. If Trump is bad, his opponents must be good. In reality, Trump is bad, and his opponents are just working the food chain. Big fish eat little fish.

And here are some fish stories no one is talking about, all roughly equal in credibility to the WaPo account (though it’s worth noting that Zach Haller considers himself a “truth siren”):

The enemy of my enemy is not my friend. And if you’re still thinking in terms of enemies and friends, you’re right where they want you.


I think every man who’s ever waded a stream has wondered about the possibility of being emasculated by a snapping turtle. I can’t find any record of it ever happening. But then, Donald Trump has never been president before, either.

Worrying about the unlikely is a favorite American pasttime, but in the end, the greatest similarity between Donald Trump and hungry sub-surface turtles is that you can’t do a damn thing about either. At least the turtle doesn’t try to hide its intentions.

Just for kicks, let’s proceed to the next stage of American political debate, the hypothetical question: Would you rather watch mushroom clouds glow on the horizon, or watch a turtle bite off your balls?

The altruist in me wants to go with the turtle, but after watching this video, I’d have to think about it.

Put that turtle in a lake though, waving its stubby legs just under the glassy surface in the evening, and the vicious becomes hauntingly beautiful. That’s the difference. If you put Donald Trump in a lake you just have a wet narcissist dog paddling in an orange film.


In contrast to snappers, box turtles benefit from the same pity we bestow on much of animalia: The angrier they get, the cuter they become.

I once saw a redneck in a white pickup swerve purposely to run over a box turtle. It was a moment that begged Walt Whitman’s question: What good amid these . . . ?

Answer: None. We are defeated. All is lost.

So surrender. But keep a four-cell Maglite in the door of your car, in case you ever see something like that again.

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