Thursday, January 20, 2011


winding creek


gunshot victim

abandoned infrastructure

this is the local scene where i trod daily to break the monotony of a day at the office. i feel fortunate not only for the availability of this nearby retreat, but in general, because development has erased all the wooded areas near home. these woods are the last place i can easily get to to explore.

i'm curious about what kinds of activity went on hereabouts in the past. one of my bosses, who grew up in the nearby town, tells me stories about coming here with his dad when he was a boy. i also see traces of "industrial" activity -- although not on a modern industrial scale. more along the lines of slag near some of the creekbeds, as well as a few artifacts i've run across here and there. an old spice bottle, for example, from the early 1900s that i dug up. i've even run across guys with metal detectors -- or seen evidence of their presence -- several times. i'm told that during the civil war there was fighting in these parts.

when i was in the valley of virginia last fall, i took a tour of an old house and was given some arrowheads, and shown many other, more valuable, finds from the area. so far, however, i have not discovered anything of the sort during my exploration. this leaves me a little bewildered. i suppose any that were around could've been scooped up during the past 300 years of habitation of this area by crackers, but if you look at the migration patterns of the settlers, you see they've been out west damn near as long. so it's something else. perhaps a different culture between the native peoples of the piedmont and the mountains, with more hunting and less agricultural activity out west. still, i'd expect to find something -- and as yet,  i haven't.

i'm not a diger, however... that particular construction of the word digger taken off the license plate of a fellow with a metal detector working the edge of the pit at a quarry in nearby goochland county that i'm keen on visiting. now, that's another place where you might think there'd be lots to find, but at a quarry, after they turn over massive amounts of soil and rock, all you end up with is an unnatural landscape on a grand scale. plateaus which never existed in nature grow over the surrounding countryside, making an ideal terrain for hunting the plentiful deer that wander the man-made ridges and ravines overseen by gun turrets.

just so long as i don't end up with an asshole full of buckshot, let 'em blast away. now that is one truly barbaric and abnormal blood sport, SUV-ridin' guys carrying hi-tech killing machines and blasting away at the over-abundant herds of oblivious beasts of the field. i once came upon a bunker-like structure near my job, where the wily hunters can lay in wait for their quarry to wander through the killing zone. it seems not impossible to me that several deer at once might find themselves facing a hail of lead from fat and comfortable hunters in their comfy dugout.

"i'm gonna keeiiiill him," one hunter explained to me, describing a "big old buck" which he'd been stalking during the days leading up to our meeting. i'd been trespassing, wandering along the edge of a large field beside a wooded area and trying to take photos of small birds. i interrupted his latest reconnaissance mission: "you've scared him off by now," my acquaintance suggested, but even i, who am no outdoors man, could see that the wind was blowing -- hard -- the wrong way. but i didn't argue.

i suppose we've got to tolerate -- though it's demented -- this kill culture. it isn't particularly sporting, in that the modern weaponry and assorted gear and gadgets give the hunters a completely unfair advantage over their prey. the animal's only advantage is that it can be in a lot of places where the hunter is not. being lazy and slow-to-react, the hunter, needs the prey needs to pretty much walk right in front of his gun so he can get the shot

if there weren't so damned many deer out there, it would make the hunt more challenging -- which would, in turn, take most of the "fun" out of this "sport". since (among other innovations in the natural world we humans are responsible for) we've wiped out most of the predators in the wild, species like deer proliferate to an unsustainable level. i've heard there are coyotes returning to the region, followed by the inevitable calls for their extermination. when a bear is seen, same thing. we're keen to protect livestock and muffy the cat, but the ecological balance among wild creatures is a matter we've chosen in which to play god -- with predictable consequences.

several years ago, when i still watched television, one evening i happened to catch an infotainment -- a commercial for a ranch in texas where the entire family could come and slaughter wild animals habituated to human presence. dad, mom, sonny boy and baby sis were all shown taking their turn blasting away at docile, oblivious critters. and the ranch takes care of everything, sending its customers home with enough meat to fill the freezer through the hard, hard winter. reminds me of dick cheney and his pals, guns a-blazing at quail flushed out of their cages especially for the occasion.

i suppose this is getting close to where gun culture intersects with politics -- a place where a typical suburbanite in the USA would just as soon not go. in spite of the ascendancy of the tea party and the GOPpers in general in american politics, i think there's a fundamental disconnect between the apocalyptic, hate-driven narrative of the yahoo movement and your typical american on the fringes of bankruptcy, who still hangs on to job, apartment and big-screen TV. there's anxiety and some resentment there, but the wide-eyed fanaticism just doesn't resonate. they -- we -- are still looking for a change, but we didn't get it in the last election, and we're not going to get it the next time, either.

sarah palin isn't a person -- she's a character. her part is to play the forgotten citizen getting its revenge on a hopelessly out-of-control government, and using any means necessary to do it. an attack on her is an attack on all the gun-toting bullet-heads who feel cheated out of their big score, the big kill, by outsiders and forces beyond their control. they feel empowered when the squeeze the trigger and watch as the stricken beast falls to its knees and then topples, vanquished by a single shot. or so's the fantasy, the same fantasy as sarah palin's alaska, the same fantasy spun by glen beck and rush limbaugh and the entire right-wing propaganda industry.

finally, something we're really good at: living in a fantasy world!

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