Snapping Turtle Man

A few days ago I rode Blue Angel on the trail by one of the Rio Grande’s deep irrigation ditches. I’d taken a new route that day and was finally on our last leg home. Not many people are out on the trails during the week, but I slung a face mask over the saddle horn in case I encountered someone walking, horseback riding or riding a bike.

Far in the distance standing by the edge of the ditch,  I saw a stocky man with a backpack and fishing net intently eyeing the water. As I got closer, I noticed he wore no mask. Hadn’t he heard of Covid 19?  I put mine on anyway, preparing to go by him, while my mind swirled with thoughts about his carelessness, his political leanings and his intentions.

As I approached, I fought the urge to pass quickly without speaking.  “Finding anything?” I asked. I assumed he was fishing, then realized he had no rod.

“Yep. About six,” he replied.

“Six what?” I asked, now genuinely curious.

“Snapping turtles. I catch them, clean the mud and leeches off their shells and put them back in the water.”

It took me a beat or two to absorb this. How interesting! I was intrigued by his commitment to the well-being of a species I had never thought much about. 

“Well, thank you!” I blurted through a lump in my throat as Blue and I passed giving a six-foot berth, about the width of the trail. We continued toward home, my heart touched by a stranger's loving action out on the trail.

As I ponder that moment, I'm struck with how often I assume I know what’s going on before I really do. I’m taken aback by how easy it is to judge. I’m amazed at how knowing even a small part of a person’s story makes that person a human being I can relate to.

I didn’t want to linger much longer because Snapping Turtle Man had no mask, but whether he did or didn’t  had become irrelevant to me in the bigger picture. That moment on the trail with a fellow traveler affirmed the goodness of life. If I had hung on to my judgements, I would not have come away inspired by a stranger -- or with a nudge to do one small thing to make someone or something a little more comfortable that day.

Take out your journal and colored markers:

  • Who have you met lately that wasn’t at all as you had expected?
  • In what ways did you judge that person before you knew at least a part of their story?
  • In what way has your world opened up because you listened to another person’s story?
  • Draw a symbol of what it looks like be in judgement.  
  • Draw another one that shows what happens when you get genuinely curious.
  • What small thing can you do today to make someone or something more comfortable?


Lynn Baskfield  guides her clients through rites of passage with storytelling, writing, creative expression, ritual, retreats, nature and very centrally, the wisdom of horses. A lifelong horsewoman, she partners with horses to evoke insights and learning that her clients cannot get by thinking, reading or talking only.  It is Lynn's experience that when her clients connect with themselves through the horses, confidence, joy and creative solutions emerge naturally.


Lynn holds an M.A in Human Development and is a certified life coach, transformational educator and the author of two books. As owner of SpiritDance Coaching, she has been coaching, training and doing retreats for individuals and teams since 1997. She also trains equine guided professionals around the world. To coach with Lynn or learn more about her work go to

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