Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Country mouse, city menagerie

I spent last weekend at my brother's new house in rural Ohio, set on some twenty acres of woods. Among other things, we talked about the odd phenomenon of seeing more wildlife in the city than in the country. Around his suburban house he saw deer, groundhogs, raccoons, turkeys, vultures, hawks, egrets, and innumerable songbirds. So far, six months in the country have produced only deer, a few birds, and a hundred trapped house mice, although muskrats are rumored to inhabit the pond. I related similar experiences in comparing suburban Massachusetts to rural Maine.

A hunter this fall did stop by and ask if he could continue to hunt in the woods. Dave had no objections and the man eventually bagged his buck and displayed its carcass for the edification of the city folk. One wouldn't experience that in the burbs. One also does not experience there the vaunted independence of country people, so stubborn about it that they will often vote Republican against their own interests of healthcare, income equality, education and fair taxation. In this election year the contrast between right and left seem to be even greater. Unlike wildlife, people don't seem to be adapting and changing to fit the times any more, but just harden and isolate their positions and fire salvos from their redoubts.

Of course, the escape of people like my brother and me to the country often seems illusional, or delusional. Certainly, it's noisier in the country, not politically, thank God, but decibel-ly. He's got the trains that traverse the I-90 corridor, I've got the airport, and we both have the infinite variety of country engines: pick-ups, riding lawn mowers, chain saws, wood splitters. Dave doesn't have the illusion of "real" wild life, like the bears and moose and bald eagles of Maine, not to mention the immense bulwark of the Great North Woods. He makes do with his acreage. We all try to survive hunting season as gracefully as we can.

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