Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Defeating the Prevailing Tourist Culture

Stepping out of your camper early on a cool windy morning, you don't expect to be greeted by a slithering rattlesnake. But there it was, sidewinding its way from the tow vehicle to my trailer door. Of course, it could have been a bull snake, but I didn't have time to ask questions. It was strange how purposeful and sentient its behavior seemed.

I chased it underneath the trailer. I cringed when it wrapped itself around the axle and then expanded its circle to fill up the inside of the wheel. Hey wait a minute, don't I have holes in the floor? This snake was becoming alarming.

I kept chasing the snake with rocks, a broom, and then a (short!) mattock. He knew I was after him. When I circled around him, he would turn his head to face me, head on. He also retracted into a multiple-sigmoid shape, and struck at me, several times. Finally the mattock cut him in half.

But he didn't die right away. He lacked rattles, so perhaps he was a noble bull snake, who is supposed to be the enemy of rattlers. (There wasn't time to check the internet to see if immature rattlers completely lack visible rattles at the end of their tail.) If I'd had a camera, a video could have zoomed in and recorded the death-throes of the snake. These were quite horrible. 

By now I was feeling guilty: I hadn't really killed anything other than insects since I was a high school lad who did a little hunting. Hunting didn't really interest me. It seemed like incompetent, amateurish assassination to merely pull the trigger on a powerful piece of technology. True hunting should be more chivalrous. Your foe should have a chance to fight back, and if you do manage to vanquish your valiant foe in a fair fight on the field of honour...

But let's not head off to a Sir Walter Scott novel. This fight with the snake occurred on the same day as the good conversation with the man who was filling his truck with the spring water. What a remarkable piece of luck it was to have experienced authentic and fundamental nature twice in one day. It shows that you shouldn't be too discouraged by the tourist kitsch of Taos or some such place.

How the tourists in Taos visualize Nature. (Except that the photo needs pretty butterflies and wildflowers.)

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