Servile to a Cervine

A camper friend and I were walking our dogs in the "south 40" when we spotted a herd of six deer trying to jump a chain link fence, 5-6 feet high. They didn't use a perpendicular approach as I might have guessed, but approached it at a glancing angle. I was surprised at how interesting it was to watch them try and fail, several times. Their bodies ricocheted off the fence ungracefully, yet they still managed to land gracefully. 'The deer as problem-solver' certainly doesn't fit the sentimental postcard of Bambi munching on a pretty flower, next to a cute witto stream. Perhaps it's an under-rated pleasure to watch animals solving problems, rather than standing around like dumbshits, trying to look pretty.

But not everybody sees it like that. Bicycling up near the Continental Divide the other day, I saw a couple deer crossing the road. Yawn. A top-end SUV slowed down and then stopped, right out in the lane of traffic. At first I thought that the SUV had hit the deer.

But they hadn't hit the deer. They had stopped to ogle the deer, as if there were something thrilling about them. I glanced at their license plate, curious to know where such naifs of nature could come from. Arizona. Oh dear, they were probably from that ghastly conurbation in Pima and Maricopa counties.

Just behind them a pickup, going their direction, crested the hill and was surprised to find them blocking his lane. He did manage to get slowed down; he seemed like a local, with a beat-up pickup truck, so I gestured at him as if to say, "Ain't these big city tourists sumpum?!"

For decades now, I have been amazed that people think it's big news to see a deer, despite their commonness. And doing something blatantly dangerous with the car is not an unusual response. Yet America is more overpopulated with deer than with homo sapiens, if such a thing is imaginable.

Most people in deer country know that city slickers live in a bubble, but I doubt that ant-hillers see themselves that way. For instance, how would the startled pickup driver convince the semi-suicidal deer-oglers of today's post that they were risking human lives for a routine and uninteresting animal sighting? After all, they know more than he does -- they're from the big city. Few ideas enter the head of an ant in the anthill except through the Mass Media, which is of course located in the anthill.

How many times does the Metropolitan Bubble Syndrome affect politics and culture in subtle ways? It might be the most under-diagnosed affliction of modern times. Our culture is almost completely divorced from physical reality: there have to be consequences of this.

The closest they ever come to experiencing the rude grandeur of nature is when they push a button to lower their opaquely-tinted driver-side window, spill their SUV's air-conditioning onto 200 degree pavement, and grab their $4 coffee from the drive-through barista.   
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It is going to get a lot harder to bicycle up to the Continental Divide from now on. For the last month I was so inflamed with fear about being chosen for that jury -- a capital case that might last for 10 weeks! -- that anger alone seemed to get me up the hill. As I ranted away internally, the miles and altitude slipped by, almost without notice.

Now that I have escaped the clutches of the Leviathan -- that is, was rejected for jury duty -- I will have to go back to pedaling up that hill the old-fashioned way: by huffing and puffing.

There are other examples of how bicycling (or any aerobic sport) is affected by mind games. I was resting at the turnaround point today. (I was safely off the road.) A driver went by, on that narrow and curvy road, with a camera in her hand and the window rolled down. She had a smile on her face that would remind you of a kid's on Christmas morning.

Did she even have a hand on the steering wheel? What the hell was going on? A hundred yards back there were a couple deer along the road. Big deal.

But it was probably the usual explanation: the deer-loving driver was a tourist from the big city who "loves Nature", but is completely ignorant of nature or even of physical reality. She thinks deer are rare and exciting enough to endanger other people and herself just to get another look.

This is the kind of suburbanite that keeps the Greens in business.

1 comment:

  1. I like what you have to say a lot of times as a fellow full-timer and eschew the excesses that are rampant in RV land. But give these people a break about the deer.. it is unbecoming and don't forget you have the curse of knowledge.

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