Monday, May 04, 2009

Monsters Around the Corner

A couple of events occurred recently that I filed to my 'monsters' idea bin. Walking distance from my back yard is Brushy Creek, and a news article hit the local paper about a feral hog that was tearing up the local farmland. This 365 pound beast did not go down easy, surviving multiple gun shots, and killing two kevlar-protected hunting dogs in the process. Given the locations mentioned in the story, my yard was well within the range of the beast and none of the propery line fences would have done anything to slow him down.

Added to that train of thought was a story passed on from friends the Gregersens who have a house at Namwianga Mission in Zambia about roving elephants moving into their neighborhood. These aren't gentle zoo performers, but wild beasts who tear up farmland (and farms) and can cause widespread destruction. Talking to David, he thought they were coming out of Zimbabwe. With the breakdown of the economy there, all wildlife protections have been tossed aside and just like the Zimbabweans crossing the river to find food and work in neighboring countries, there are wildlife refugees as well.

So...what makes a wild animal a monster? What caused me to put these reports into that category? For one thing I've rejected the idea that monsters are make-believe. I don't know when that anti-fairytale got started, but monsters are more than imaginary creatures hiding in childrens' closets. The common fable is that there are no monsters anymore and that the world is a safe place.

I suppose the shift to an urban environment where the only animals to be had are pets is part of it. But I suspect that the endless parade of serial-killers as TV entertainment speaks to the fact that if all the monsters with teeth and claw are gone, we'll grow some of our own.

But as far as hogs and elephants are concerned, why would I call them monsters? What makes them a different case than Sissy the Dog sleeping at my feet? Sissy can certainly show her fangs if she feels threatened.

I was buying a round bale of coastal hay over near Coupland the other day and as I chatted with the farmer, the feral hogs came up. I wish I had the gift for accurate quotes but I don't, so I'll paraphrase:

"It's probably the drought. I've run up against a couple of feral hogs this year. It's unsettling. I'm used to thinking I'm at the top of the food chain but they seem to disagree with me on that subject."

And maybe that's the answer. I've looked into the eyes of an elephant who took objection to me and had no respect for human superiority. Sharp tusks, great strength, anger and no inclination to back down – that's good enough a definition for me. There are still natural monsters about and I like it that way.

1 comment:

Chris Meadows said...

This kind of reminds me of a G.K. Chesterton quote: “Fairy tales are more than true - not because they tell us dragons exist, but because they tell us dragons can be beaten.”

(I had been misremembering it as "monsters," not "dragons," but googling it turned up the truth.)