Friday, July 04, 2008

Whale Tale

A Dozen years back, a whale beached itself directly in front of my Brother David’s apartment. This uncanny event occurred on one of the rare occasions that he was out of town. We considered this symbolic, since David is a top-notch Wildlife Protector for the State of North Carolina. While he has a rascally background, Officer Banholzer takes his job as seriously as I do mine -as if our lives depended on them.

Once a whale beaches itself, that’s about it for the creature. The weight of its own body, used to being buoyant, crushes itself without the encompassing ocean-water to buttress its gravity. Many people wonder why so many of these creatures continuously thrust themselves onto our shores.

Some say that whales are becoming disoriented by modern sea vessel sonar and other mitigating factors –known and unknown. Ever since TV first radiated, it seems that we’ve placed technology on fancy pedestals, while allowing important nature-impact-studies to become mostly burning afterthoughts. After all, consider the astronomical disparities between clean oceanography research and NASA’s grand ships shuttling among our skies.

Could it be that the whales are sending us a bottled message from the once crystal seas, that they now mourn the earth we all share? Some look at their giant sacrifice as a clarion call for better caretaking, while other laugh this off as meaningless mythology.

Occasionally I browse the North Carolina newspapers. In fact, there is a “Mountain Xpress” that comes out every Wednesday in the enlightened mountain town of Ashville. When the entire hullabaloo came into our hollar, about a rancher in Mackay who legally shot a local man’s dogs chasing his cows, I found a fascinating story in this seemingly parallel paper. It shows the ways in which we treat animals, reveals much about ourselves. (See: In the eye of the beholder / Mountain Xpress / Asheville, NC)

After serendipitously discovering this story, I remembered reading a similar passage in Carson’s / Sam’s Medicine Cards, which testifies to the loyalty of dogs:

“If Dog has been yelled at or paddled, it still returns love to the person who was the source of its bad treatment. This does not come from stupidity, but rather from a deep and compassionate understanding of human shortcomings. It is as if a tolerant spirit dwells in the heart of every canine that asks only to be of service.

David gets to bark up all sorts of trees as a Wildlife Officer. In the cover of night, when citizens hear gunshots of unknown origin, police dispatchers, page him in first, under the assumption that poachers are out spotlighting again and David is the man who knows this territory best. Occasionally he rescues deer, by meticulously unwinding wire fences, using the same strong wrassling moves, I was very eager to use on him, before he joined the Marines. In between teaching hunter safety courses, David occasionally captures and relocates wayward alligators away from Golf Course Links.

One dark night David caught a preacher illegally taking deer. The preacher shrieked, in an inhuman voice, “I can’t help it; it’s a disease!” After his court date, the preacher continued crying shrilly from his pulpit, that his parishioners “may have read some things in the newspaper, but that they are all fallacious.” Soonafter, people attending worship came to David and asked, “What is the truth?” David told them that in this case they should be believers –of the news of record accounts, of their leader’s conviction.

It seems that half the populace will try to take the easy way out; when they believe there is no

watchdog, many do not abide by the simple rules. David says that of the potential “violators” he surveils; fully one-half eventually litter something during the course of a typical afternoon. I have asked him about this often and he says that this statistic remains stagnant.

Ironically in North Carolina, newspapers and political signage are not considered trash, even if they are stained full of things more unseemly than bloody poaching convictions, before being tossed aside into un-receptacled areas. Imagine the sausage-like mechanisms that went into passage of a law like that.

Sometimes Brother David finds fish choked in plastic, discarded from six packs. Some wormy fishermen find this funny. I suppose then for them, a keg of beer gone overboard, to block up a whales blowhole is about as good as it gets.

Perhaps the real reason the ocean is so saline is that every animal on earth has been filling it with saltwater tears, trying to rinse clear their eyes from how wrongly man has war-shipped our good earth, ever since that first rotten apple core was tossed aside, violating that foremost mythological pristine garden.

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