Post Turtle Ergo Propter Turtle

There’s a hoary old tale that’s been circulating in American politics for generations. It starts with an elderly farmer, because in myth and parable those are our wise men. The English have wizards; the Germans have magic dwarves; Americans have farmers.

Seems this old feller was out mending fence one day and had a mishap, so he went in to see the town doctor. As he was getting his hand stitched up, the doc asked how he’d happened to slip so badly with the fence wire.

“Well, Doc, I was startled by a post turtle. Didn’t expect him so close to my left ear, and of course he snapped, poor fella. Lucky my hand’s all that needs stitching.”

Now the doctor, he’d practiced in the country for a long long time, doing home visits and all, but even so he’d never heard of a post turtle. So of course he asked.

“It’s a turtle on top of a fence post, Doc,” said the farmer, not cracking a smile. Well, you ask a silly question…

The farmer, catching the look in the doctor’s eye, quite against his usual practice unbent a little and explained. (It pays to be nice to the man who’s stitching up your hand. A tetchy doctor is a clumsy doctor.) “Thing is, you usually don’t see them outside of politics. Turtles in nature ain’t often to be found atop fence posts.”

The doctor allowed how this was so, but, being a curious sort of fellow, after a short moment he enquired further about the political aspect of the phenomenon. The farmer grinned* and replied.

“Well, it’s like this: You know he didn’t get up there by himself. He doesn’t rightly belong at the top of a fence post, so some sadistic bastard must have put him there, thinking it’s funny. He has no idea what to do while he’s up there, and having been (as it were) unnaturally elevated beyond his ability to function, he’s never going to get anything done while he is there. Any decent soul just wants to help the poor sunuvabitch escape from his predicament, and you can’t help but wonder what kinda damn fool put him up there in the first place.”

The farmer and the doctor shared a grin, because they both knew exactly which president this applied to. Of course, they were thinking about two different names, but on the other hand they were both right, which is why we need open primaries and ranked-choice voting. But that’s another story.

Anyway: Next time you see a turtle on a high post where he doesn’t belong, you’ll know.


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*NOTE: The farmer only grinned on the inside, because there’s an art to telling stories and keeping a straight face is a big part of it. Besides, you lose a lot of pasture cred if you let yourself be seen going around grinning all the time, even if you have been saving up a whopper like this for nigh on twenty years now, just praying for an excuse to tell it.

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