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April 20, 2012

Times They Are a Changin'

The family reunion is a great getaway that I look forward to every year. I love seeing my sister, immediate family, and extended family. I don’t have any relatives that I don’t like and truthfully I wish I could see them more often. It’s a great time of life to feel pride in the accomplishments of the family/team and to know that we are all tied together by our common ancestry. It’s such a supportive and positive group.

This year I was left pondering the implications of many events and conversations, some of which have not yet fully rendered in my mind, but one has come to fruition and I will discuss it in brief detail here. It relates loosely to the concepts of Extinct Ideas I wrote about 8/4/2010 and I think about this kind of thing frequently so I’m sure I’m repeating myself from another column as well.

One of my older cousins, in fact one of the more senior people at our reunion had the good fortune to come across a rattlesnake at the campout this year, a beautiful specimen around three feet in length. Unfortunately for the snake, my cousin is from a generation that views them as the enemy, killers of men, children, horses, and livestock so he killed it instantly. He was alone on the road, but had his knife and felt like it was his duty to keep the children safe.

He showed up at our campsite, bloody knife in hand, not wanting to brag, but essentially proud of his kill and thought the kids might like to go see the body. At this point we reach the chasm of thought separation from his generation to mine. The kids, young adults really, were not excited to see a dead snake. They were mad that some fool had senselessly murdered a rare and wonderful creature. That diamondback wasn’t looking for trouble, it was looking to warm up on the road. We were in a protected natural area, where the snake should be, indeed the only place on Earth we have left for her to go.

My cousin was surprised, I think, by the prevailing reaction. When he was a kid, a snake kill would have brought honor and prestige, but in today’s world, it’s seen as wanton violence, a tragedy. I mourn for the snake because I’m a tree-hugging climatologist, but nobody would argue me this point. The Christian’s want to preserve God’s creations; snakes get a bad wrap in the bible, but they are majestic creatures all the same. The big oil employees understand that the natural areas are set-aside for us to enjoy nature and since they have the money to travel and see the wilderness, they want it preserved for their enjoyment.

We have come a long way in two generations. America is tame now, the tiny fraction of nature that’s left needs to be protected and just about everyone is on board with the idea, but it only takes one disinter in a large group to do something to permanently alter the group impact. Even if the rest of us cleaned up our campsites, packed out our trash, and left everything as we found it, the rash action of an outmoded individual tarnished our communal accomplishment.

I’m not saying he’s a bad person, or even that I’m mad at him, but I hope his actions will change next time he encounters a snake, particularly in a designated natural area.

I also know that if I posted this on a forum that allowed for comments, a vocal minority of readers would post something like “If that snake bit you/your sister/mother/child/dog/something offensive you’d be singing a different tune. That guy saved your life!” And while I really respect the thoughtfulness of this response, I feel obligated to point out the probability dilemma.

I will agree that the action protected me and my loved ones by a marginal difference on par with him say purchasing me a lottery ticket. No one would say, he just gave me 50 million dollars, that would be ridiculous, but somehow the same people have no issue in crediting him with saving lives. The vast majority of snakes roam shell to grave without ever taking a human life (5 deaths per year on average in the United States according to the USDA). Furthermore, if he were to hand me a beer or smoke in my vicinity, the odds of my contracting liver disease or lung cancer increased by percentages vastly higher than the whole snakebite thing. Again, nobody would seriously say he just gave me lung cancer. Hopefully the logical fallacy is clear here and I would gladly trade my marginally increased safety for a live snake.

Also of note as a rebuttal, I called the park to find out their policy on snakes and the hesitant woman that works the phone said ominously that maintenance would come out and “remove” the snake if called. She would not elaborate on if the snakes were relocated (as should be done) or if they were killed to make little trophies for some closed-minded hicks, but I got the impression it’s the latter. So perhaps Times Aren’t a Changin’ as fast as I’d like.

Song of the Month (or longer)

I’ve been playing guitar a lot lately and combing the archives of past hits to find something that we can mess around with and bring back. I had always thought this song was terrible lyrically, but I kind of liked it from the 80s sounds, silliness, and copious references to burning flame. After closer analysis, the lyrics aren’t that bad, in fact I think their great. We still haven’t worked out a way to modernize the song. This is "Abracadabra" by the Steve Miller Band:
     I feel the magic in your caress
     I feel magic when I touch your dress
     Silk and satin, Leather and lace
     Black panties with and Angel’s Face
     I see magic in your eyes
     I hear the magic in your sighs
     Just when I think I’m gonna get away
     I hear the words that you always say