Post Turtle

Prominent politician is described as a 'post turtle'

Joke:   Prominent politician is described as a “post turtle.”


[Collected via e-mail, September 2008]

While suturing a cut on the hand of a 75-year old Texas rancher whose hand was caught in a gate while working cattle, the doctor struck up a conversation with the old man. Eventually the topic got around to Sarah Palin and her bid to be a heartbeat away from being President. The old rancher said, “Well, ya know, Palin is a post turtle.” Not being familiar with the term, the doctor asked him what a post turtle was. The old rancher said, “When you’re driving down a country road and you come across a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, that’s a post turtle .You know she didn’t get up there by herself, she doesn’t belong up there, she doesn’t know what to do while she is up there, and you just wonder what kind of dumb ass put her up there to begin with.”

[Chattanooga Times Free Press, March 2001]

A country doctor is suturing a laceration on the hand of an old farmer.

Old Farmer: “All you need to know about the 2000 election is that young Dubya Bush is a post turtle.”

Doctor: “Oh? What is a post turtle?”

Old Farmer: “When yer driving down a country road, and ya’ come across a fence post with a turtle balanced on top? That’s a post turtle. Ya’ know he didn’t get there by himself, he don’t belong there, he can’t get anything done while he’s up there, and you just want to help take the poor thang down.”

Origins:   Election

season provides endless opportunity for trotting out old japes and aiming them at new targets. This tale about a weather-beaten tough-as-nails Texas rancher’s withering assessment of a candidate for high office is one such barb; simply swap the name of the politician being denigrated for one more to your distaste, and it’s ready to go.

The current example lampooning Governor Sarah Palin, for instance, we also saw circulated in July 2008 about Senator Barack Obama.

The “post turtle” appellation can be applied to any seeker of high office who is viewed as attempting to rise above his or her native abilities and thus would be as out of place if successful as a turtle on a fence post. Such label is used to identify a politician the anecdote’s teller regards as intrinsically unsuited for the office being bid for and to communicate that view to others via an amusing mental image.

As to exactly what defines a “post turtle,” that varies a bit from telling to telling:

  • “Well, you know that turtle didn’t get up there by himself. Someone’s got to have put him up there. And if there’s one thing you know, it’s sooner or later that turtle’s going to fall.”   (Associated Press, August 2008)
  • “You know he didn’t get up there by himself, and he sure as heck doesn’t belong up there, he doesn’t know what to do up there and you just wonder what kind of an idiot put him up there in the first place.”   (Monterey County Herald, July 2008)
  • “It sure doesn’t belong there, it didn’t get there by itself and now that it’s there it doesn’t know what to do.”  
    (Buffalo News, April 2001)
  • “Ya’ know he didn’t get there by himself, he don’t belong there, he can’t get anything done while he’s up there, and you just want to help take the poor thang down.”   (Chattanooga Times Free Press, March 2001)

Barbara “they’re at the post!” Mikkelson

Last updated:   25 September 2008


  Sources Sources:

    Condren, Dave.   “Public Financing of Elections Needed to Reform Politics, Commentator Says.”

    Buffalo News.   28 April 2001   (p. B6).

    Lindsey, Greg.   “How to Get to the Top.”

    Monterey County Herald.   9 July 2008.

    Saunders, Debra.   “Mercy for Mr. Plano.”

    The San Francisco Chronicle.   24 February 2004   (p. A21).

    Smyth, Julie Carr.   “Ohio Swing County Rejects Labels, Goes with Gut.”

    Associated Press.   23 August 2008.

    Weaver, Linda.   “President ‘Post Turtle’ on His Tax-Cut Plan.”

    Chattanooga Times Free Press.   12 March 2001   (p. B6).
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