Why I Don’t Like Pink

Certain colors mean a lot to me. Like the special blue gray that was the color of mother’s eyes, that is a good one. But I don’t like pink. It’s all because of a strange episode involving a snapping turtle.

Where I grew up in the foothills of the Catskill mountains, the ponds were filled with creatures. Some were rainbow-beautiful, like the iridescent blue gill fish and others dull and prehistoric looking, like the brown-gray bull frogs. As a child I haunted the pond at the bottom of our valley, and loved observing both the tiniest of creatures beneath the water and the larger animals that came by to drink. My father would say I was going to be a biologist one day, but I didn’t know what the word meant at the time, it sounded like a disease.

Our pond was about seven times the size of my current apartment, not big, not small. I walked by our pond every day on the narrow strip of land that separated it from the swamp next door. The water was never clear, and depending on the weather and lighting, the shadows of fish, turtles and snakes would be visible to some degree. The snakes hung out by the north side of the pond, black, as big around as my wrist and longer than I was tall. Sometimes my father would shoot at the snakes but I don’t think he ever killed one. I thought at the time that bullets didn’t travel under water very well.

The things I could see were less frightening than the things I couldn’t, like the snapping turtle who my father said lived at the bottom of the pond. At first, I thought it was a story, the “don’t go in the pond because” story.

We all knew when we thought the snapping turtle woke up with each spring thaw, because the baby ducklings swimming behind the mother mallard would disappear one by one, pulled from the surface down below right as we watched. The spring disappearance of the mallard’s chicks made the mallard frantic and disturbed us all. Snapping turtles can get to be very large, and at the time I was still quite small. I was certain that my bare toes under water would look a lot like the sort of small fish a snapping turtle might like to eat, and so wading in the water was out of the question. Observations were from ashore.

The old snapping turtle did emerge from the pond his last summer when I was about six. He crawled up onto the strip of land beside the pond and stopped there. He completely blocked the path, as large as half the kitchen table top. Grand and prehistoric, he held his head up like a dinosaur.

There must have been only one of him in that pond for how long I do not know, possibly since it had formed as a pond separate from the other marshes in the valley. He looked surprised to see the changes on the surface of the earth after what must have been a hundred years under the mud of our pond. He moved his narrow gray head on a long leathery brownish neck extended from his huge shell ever so slowly, and his beak was a tremendous mechanical looking hook.

As I watched the fascinating aged creature from inside at our kitchen window, he jolted and then bled a lavender pink from his neck in a smooth slow stream. My father had shot the snapping turtle, who bled into a growing pool of blood, sickening pink. It was a thick medicinal blueish pink, a strange sad color unlike any I had ever seen. I don’t know how I expected the snapping turtle would live, but I had hoped it would, and watched the ancient head slowly lower to the ground.

I didn’t speak to my father for some time, but that didn’t bring the turtle back of course nor erase the experience. Ever after, when we went shopping and my mother would point out something like a sweater in pink, although I was a girl, I would think, no, not pink.

You know after turtle blood pink, pink just never looks the same.

13 thoughts on “Why I Don’t Like Pink

  1. Jennifer,
    this story touched me (I hope the grammar etc. is correct) because in my childhood/youth nature with its forests, lakes and animals was my best friend.
    Often I ranged a moor with its ponds – I still remember the ring snake swimming through the pond, hunting for frogs and newts, I still remember dragonflies floating above the water…It was like Eden…
    Yes, the animals. There was (and there still is) a kind of magical touch – maybe that’s the reason why I’m vegan. Who would eat his friends?

    1. Thanks Joachim, this childhood place of yours seems beautiful. Its memory can be a strength I think. I live with the memory of the valley and trees and creatures of childhood still surrounding me like a blanket. Even while living in NYC the last so many years, the countryside is always in my thoughts and still shapes me and my reactions.

      And, yes eating at times seems an act of ultimate betrayal in the family of the living. I am happy to hear you are a vegan. I respect the vegan lifestyle choice very much.

  2. Jennifer, your story brings up so many feelings for me. Like your childhood, mine was full of hunters. I never had a problem with it until the spring that my grandmother allowed me to name the calves she and Grandpa had bought. Less than a year later, my grandfather dropped a steak on my plate and said, “That’s Matthew there.” After that, I just couldn’t stomach hunting or animal husbandry.

    I still like a good steak — I just prefer not to know its name.

    1. Oh yes, what a gut reaction seeing the animal you knew that way Susan. Calves are so warm and beautiful, baby pigs are also. I can see how the experience would change your feelings. Very strange things happen to us in childhood.

  3. Jennifer, thanks so much for the pink perspective. Your story was an invitation for me to sink deep into my childhood for similar experiences as I read it. I often look at authors with distaste for the damage path their narratives leave on my heart about survival. I quit watching Meerkat Manor because I felt it unfair for the cameraman to allow precious creatures to starve to death or die from an infection that could have been avoided with proper intervention. “C’mon! Throw Timon a cracker and some water!” I was drawn in by your story, fearful of the end for the turtle as I had seen many times. The reflection was uplifting for me and made great conversation with family. Your story redeemed me! TY tons!

    1. Thanks for sharing your impression that it was uplifting Tammy, I’m happy. Nature has so much beauty along with the pain, and memories of childhood are just laced with nature for me.

  4. What an interesting story. I just read Celia Rees’ Witch Child about a young girl who comes to the American colonies in the late 1600s. She talks of the old Indian man being disturbed that the settlers were killing wolves. Everything has its place in the world, he said. Even the snapping turtles.

    1. I’ll have to look up Celia Rees, thanks for sharing the reference Catherine. I was truly horrified as a young child by people killing the animals that lived all around me where I grew up in the country. Local snapping turtles, snakes, mice and rats, raccoons and even rabbits were shot or poisoned as pests, deer and squirrels hunted for sport.

      I got into some minor trouble at home over springing the fur trapper’s metal traps around our valley with tree branches in grade school years, on my afternoon walks. A story for another day…

  5. Jennifer, you have brought back my memory of our snapping turtle. Our farm was about a half mile from Crooked Creek. We would observe a mother Mallard walk down the gravel road with six ducklings following behind her in single file. That evening she would return with five. My father knew a snapping turtle was getting the little ducks while they swam in the creek. I also remember a big snapping turtle that left the creek and crawled a considerable distance from it. He ended up in a wooden barrel next to our barn lot and survived for quite some time on pig feed mixed with cow milk and water (or “slop” as we called it).

    1. Hi Barbara, yes the snapping turtles come up from below where the chicks swim. I like that your snapping turtle got into a barrel and survived, and wish that we could have engineered a place for our prehistoric beast to live out his days. Thanks for sharing the memory here.

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