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Traveling Again, Observing Again

I'm glad that southwestern Colorado (Cortez, Mancos, Dolores) seems to be coming up in the world as a mountain biking alternative to you-know-where in southeastern Utah. I will never understand what is so great about fighting loose red sandstone. Southwestern Colorado has some good ponderosa forests with smooth packed dirt trails.

The other day we saw a family at the top of the hill on the trail ahead of us. Did the mom ever have her hands full: a child too young to walk, a little boy-savage about 4, and a labrador retriever, together with all the impedimenta that goes along with them. I snapped my dog on the leash so that the mother wouldn't have one more issue to contend with.

Oddly enough, she seemed to be enjoying the moment of chaos. Her lab was friendly so I unsnapped my dog so that they could play together. I got a kick out of the little boy-savage, with his forest-camo, face-paint made of "Teddy Grahams."

All this little boy-savage-of-summer needs in the forest is a club or spear.

I wish I had more pleasant encounters like this with homo sapiens. Normally they are just a nuisance. But it should be an important part of the travel experience. I like the way the mother was content with a boy who acted like a boy and allowed her dog to act like a dog.

I always leave nice families feeling optimistic. Maybe this country isn't as sick and dying as it usually appears, especially with a woman like this willing to pass her genes on. Where did she get her optimism?

The Dolores public library, backing right up to the river, makes for a great place to hang out and suck free wi-fi, while listening to the symphony of piano music from the river. There was a young couple at the other end of the patio with a -- did I get this right? -- a pet Canadian goose. At least it was acting like a pet. My dog wasn't even lunging at the goose, perhaps because it was acting like a pet rather than prey.

Later, when they left, the silly goose followed them like a young duck will follow its mother. Even sillier was the goose's body language: 'what, you're leaving me? But I need you!' The goose kept following them, and the young woman kept turning around to check on it. She giggled in astonishment the whole way.  So that wasn't their pet! 

Apparently it was a denizen of the Dolores River, who had perhaps learned that it could mooch food from people on the library's patio. The goose followed them down the side of the highway for 100 yards, with cars streaming by, a few feet away. It couldn't walk as fast as the people, so occasionally it would spread it massive wings and hop a bit, giving it the appearance of love-sick indignation.

Surely this was a nice moment to get off the mountain bike and take it all in. Although they probably grow in many states, I never seem to run into wild roses except in southern Colorado. Perhaps it is the timing. It is nice having a smaller camera: occasionally even a retro-grouch adapts to the modern age of lithium batteries and more compact cameras.

So I was expecting a good photo of 'many a flower, blushing unseen' as some damn fool poet once said. But they were withering rather than blushing. Here is how I wanted them:

Taken at my favorite flower hangout above South Fork, CO
I wondered what the right attitude should be towards disappointment like this. It seemed like the subject for an entire essay, but right now a mountain bike in the stable is neighing plaintively and pawing anxiously at the ground.


XXXXX said…
It takes two to create a pleasant encounter. She probably noticed when you put your dog on a leash and appreciated the gesture. Do you realize how many arrogant and obnoxious dog-owners there are out there who think everyone should be delighted with their pups no matter how undisciplined they are? So perhaps it was you who actually set the stage in a positive manner. As to the little boy, I tend to think she had no choice. Four year old boys usually have a mind of their own. Best to give them as loose a leash as possible so they are more likely to listen when you have to step in.
It really is pretty simple isn't it? Just mutual consideration and respect. It does happen but perhaps not often enough. It can be a sad world that way.

As to the goose, so often the advice is given not to feed the wild creatures as they so quickly become human dependent. There is a chapter in "Guns, Germs, and Steel" about why species did or did not allow themselves to be domesticated which is worth reading. When abandoned or injured otter pups are found along the coast, rescue workers have the darnest time keeping them from bonding while they are being rehabilitated. I guess it's just natural to look for the easiest way to get food. The release rate for these otters is low because of it. They know a good thing when they find it.
Welcome back, George, you were missed.

The chapter you mentioned sounds interesting. I wonder if the "domestic" cat was on his list!
XXXXX said…
Yes, Diamond mentions the cat's domestication in order to hunt rodent pests but adds an additional comment later on in the chapter worth mentioning. Many animals successfully domesticated have the quality of being a pack or herd animal, in other words having a dominance hierarchy with which humans could establish themselves as top dog. So we could be imprinted on their young, etc. and essentially were adopted into their family structures. The cat, however, is a solitary territorial animal and cannot be herded. They do not, in his opinion, imprint on humans like a dog does nor are they instinctively submissive like a dog. But still have the traditional use of killing unwanted mice, etc. The goose is domesticated, of course, as well, imprints on humans and has a social hierarchy.
Some of the characteristics affecting domestication are growth rate (how long one has to wait to eat them), problems of captive breeding (can humans successfully control their breeding and some animals will not mate in captivity at all), disposition (nastiness), tendency to panic (makes them hard to control, like buffalo),and social structure and size of home range vs degree of territoriality.
This is a quick summary but really all quite interesting.
Of course, it's not just animals we learned to domesticate so long ago but plants as well in order to increase their food value, etc. Like writing, the land in present day Iraq is credited with being the first to engage in this entire range of behavior including both animals and plants.
This is off subject, but I find it so interesting that this land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers which is so credited with early human accomplishments couldn't hold this position and has just degenerated into raw instincts or however one may want to characterize the chaos there.
edlfrey said…
I think all that land between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers where it has been assumed that civilized man got his start degenerated because of his man made climate change. It was only during the Dark Ages that nature was allowed to heal and is what Mother Earth needs once again. It is interesting that the animals that were domesticated during those early years remained so up to and thru the Dark Ages and continue even during this current man made climate change. The animals are resilient it is only man that can not adapt.