I had been uprooting weeds from the far reaches of our half-acre. Yesterday, after reporting to my wife my nasty encounter with brambles, which I did survive, I mentioned my discovery of turds.
“Some creature is leaving its turds,” I said. “Maybe the coons are back.” We were plagued by raccoons for some time, but they’d gotten a better offer.
She suggested that perhaps it wasn’t turds. It may have been catfood that went bad and rather than put it in the garbage where it would smell, she had dumped it on the pre-Raphaelite edges of our property. (Some friend had thus described the raggedy enchantments of our backyard greenery.)
“So if it’s kind of a lightish brown and not so much turd-shaped as just in a pile, it’s catfood and not a turd.”
“It’s a turd.”
I then launched into a long disquisition on my qualifications for knowing a turd as a turd. I had seen countless turds from multiple species over the course of my life, not excluding my own. I had matured in the years before the signs commanding you to pick up your dog’s exhaust. I held a Stanford Ph.D.
“He who cannot recognize a turd for what it is—if it looks like a turd, is shaped like a turd, smells like a turd—is not qualified to vote next November.”
At last we came to the conclusion that the piles out back were likely what I said they were.
Over the course of our sixty-one years together, we’ve faced many disagreements. They’ve sometimes resulted in grim faces or in shouts, tears, broken china, and once a jar of honey smashed on the wall. We’re not lacking in irrational moments. And yet we seem to have mellowed. Our turd exchange was rife with jokes and laughter.
This wasn’t due to the triviality of the subject. It’s a truism that the greatest battles are fought over the most trivial subjects, as witness academic politics. If you can shrink world issues down to the most trite (yet deeply symbolic) spat, you have the makings of Armageddon.
In our marriage, at least, we’ve generally learned to recognize what’s at stake. In this case, it doesn’t matter if it’s spoiled catfood or turds—you don’t want to step in it. On the national stage—just as ragged and weedy as our backyard—we must keep this in mind as Turd Rapids reaches its crest.