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Quintessential Man

When Stan Lee came to UT Austin, everyone was trying to get tickets. Except for me. Stan Lee, for those who are too cool to know, is famous for creating Spiderman, The Hulk, and other comic book characters. I've never once read a comic book, and despite being one, I have no particular affinity for superheroes. The night that Stan was to talk, one of my friends came over. He had somehow gotten ahold of several VIP tickets to the appearance. VIP tickets were up front.

The year before Ben Stein had come and gave a very interesting speech. Afterwards I went up and got him to sign a one dollar bill. In retrospect, I wish I had a Doubly Deuce at the time. I figured that I would temporarily suspend my gangsta lifestyle and see what this nerd comic book crap was all about.

[I know this seems like it will be a boring story. It won't be, so stop whining and read to the end. Then leave a comment and tell me I was right.]

This Way to The Bubonic Plague

On Getting Real

Notice: All posts are stream of conscious entries with little or no edits or rewrites. This is a workout space.

Next on my list of projects is a humorous cautionary tale of feeding chipmunk woe in the Rocky Mountains. Like many of my articles, this one comes from a real life experience. In this case, I suspend what has been, not only ecological best practice, but a personal principle for many years: Don't feed the wildlife. When i was a child, we fed every wild thing that would come up and snatch the crumbs of cookies from our very fingertips with no thought of what this treat was doing to the health of the animal or ecosystemn, nor what diseases might be transferred through a bite, intentional or not, on the part of the animal. My parents were smart people and my mother could go well above and beyond a mother's paranoia about the dangers of the world, except when it came to animals. Where animals were concerned her beliefs seemed to come straight from from Walt Disney.

She operated as if almost all animals were innocent angels who only bit someone if they were threatened. Maybe it was because we lived on a farm and were surrounded by so many animals, both domestic and wild-caught. While I don’t remember this ever being actually discussed, the family motto seemed to be: if you could catch it, you could keep it. At one time or another, our home played host to many critters that live in the thick green forests of Western Tennessee: raccoons, squirrels, lizards, turtles, minnows, frogs and crawdaddies. To be fair, the raccoons and squirrels came to us as babes and were orphaned as a direct result of us cutting down a tree, so I guess the guilt was stronger than Mom’s fear of rabies or fleas.

When we went on vacation, we took our "all animals are part of our family or can be" attitudes with us, and we fed marmots, chipmunks, deer, elk and prairie dogs all over the United States. I distinctly remember that the animals were far more scared of us than we were of them. There was no talk about animal populations becoming dependent on humans for food in heavily touristed areas, nor talk of the bubonic plague. Rabies was mentioned, but most people seemed to think that was something primarily passed along by bats.

then I grew up, came back out West and put myself through Colorado at Ft. Lewis College in Durango, Co, a town that held the environment in such high esteem that anyone who moved there was quickly made aware of environmental issues, kindly and not so kindly. I hadn't known that when I fed the cute furries, I was not only destroying their health, but also their drive to find food from the right sources. Once I understood that, I changed my ways, and not only stopped actively feeding the wildlife, but picked up every crumb from campsites and picnics. When I had my daughter, teaching her about the importance of keeping the wildlife wild was lesson number one for an outdoorsy family.

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