"That's it, just pick them up," we said, avoiding his trusting eyes.
Woody began to neglect his chisels and clay to wander along the lakeshore looking for turtles. He found only spavined snappers, and it cost him a case of beer to learn how inadequate these beasts were. He might never have advanced (or sunk) further had he not struck upon one of the soundest of all getting-ready plays—sneakiness. One afternoon Woody tailed a featherbrained cousin to the edge of the mosquito-infested swamp that lay half a mile inland from the lake. My cousin was getting ready to Muck Crawl, stripping down to sneakers and shorts when Woody came up.
"Is this where you get those mud turtles?" Woody asked, looking distastefully at the oozing stew of humus and rank water.
"Well, sort of," my cousin admitted.
"How about catching me a couple?" Woody asked ingratiatingly.
My cousin was stupid but not crazy. "Suppose I caught you one that beat mine. Uh-uh," he said. This cousin was also too good-hearted to be anything but a mediocre getting-ready gamester. "I'll show you how you can catch them, though," he told Woody. A saucer-sized turtle, well over the legal racing size, was sunning on a log 50 feet out in the swamp. My cousin slipped into the mire and made an easy stalk. He lay down and inched forward, propelling himself with his elbows and toes, with only the top of his head showing above the slime. When the turtle made a break, my cousin leaped and fell forward, submerging in the swamp but pinning the turtle down under his chest. He came back, bringing the beast to show Woody.
Woody eyed my cousin, who, after releasing the turtle, had begun picking leeches from his legs. "Do all of you get turtles this way?"
"Yeh," said my cousin. "Well, grandma doesn't but she catches grass frogs for Peggy and she gets her turtles."
Whatever inner torment he went through, the result was that Woody became a Muck Crawler and eventually assembled a respectable stable of racing turtles. In fact, he became addicted to Muck Crawling, developing a compulsion to slither through swamps even when he no longer needed turtles. Muck Crawling permanently colored his view of artistic reality. Bogs have influenced Woody's sculpture as markedly as owls have Picasso. His most ambitious piece is a lump of bronze called Two Turtles in the Spatterdock Pads.
Careful study of Woody's trials and the other cases reported here will enable the novice to comprehend the general laws of getting-ready play. Stated in nontechnical language, these are: