Weekend in the woods.


Life getting you down? Feel as though winter will never end? Can’t shake a pain-in-the-ass cold? Go camping with some Brownies. The weather will still be lousy, your own cold will not improve, but hey, it was fun. Seventeen Brownies and 15 moms in one lodge made for much togetherness, but that’s what the spring camping weekend is all about. I was reminded, once again, of another good reason to have kids — to get you out of your little world, and into someone else’s. (Unless you’re one of the world’s most controlling parents, your kids move in a different world than you do, yes they do.) I made 36 hours of small talk with the other mothers. I was the extra adult for the horseback riding. I held a ball python in the critter house. And I watched the girls’ Gimme Shelter class, pictured above, although that was the point at which the cold penetrated all the way to the bone and I had to go back to the lodge and lie under my sleeping bag until my temperature rose again.

Kate had a good time, too. I think even the python didn’t feel too badly used by the weekend.

Kids are different today; when did little girls get so la-de-dah about handling serpents? They got to pick up all the reptiles and amphibians in the critter house, but the poor frogs were neglected, while the python had a proverbial line out the door. In my own troop, there might have been one snake-handler, and the rest of us would have had the vapors. In this one, the only one who waited outside with a trembling heart was one of the mothers.

Snakes get a bad rap. One of the mothers was a military wife, had given birth to her first child in a hospital in rural Alaska. She said a moose cow stood outside the window watching, licking the glass.

(“Why do they lick the glass?” I asked. “I have no idea,” she said. “I was just glad we had a second-floor apartment, because one of my girlfriends was on the first floor, and her windows were always smeared with moose slobber.”)

Anyway, she explained that the first 1,000 moose you see in Alaska are charming, and then they become a pain in the butt. It’s common to call in sick to work because it’s rutting season and a bull moose is standing in your driveway between you and your car. You swiftly learn that a cow with a calf at her side is as dangerous as a black bear. You also learn that unlike horses, moose hip joints are omnidirectional, and they can kick straight out to the side, no problem. And yet her daughter carried a cute stuffed moose. Most people say awww when they see moose along the road.

But the snake, described by its handler as “as friendly and harmless as a kitten, but not as cute”? This is the animal that got us kicked out of the Garden of Eden.

Join the Snake Anti-Defamation League, I say.

OK, then.

I blinked last week and missed perhaps the briefest career in our topsy-turvy world of digital media — the very short story of Ben Domenech, WashPost right-wing blogger. Zip he was hired, zip he was exposed as a rather blatant plagiarist, zip he resigned. Now comes the extended period of keyboard-clattering in which everyone weighs in with an opinion. I’ll keep my own comments short: I hope next time the WashPost doesn’t feel the need to hire a punk. Go ahead and click over and read some of the assembled quotes by the WashPost’s late hire — Coretta King is a communist, Helen Thomas is an “ugly old bat,” blah to the blah to the blah. And here we thought homeschooled children were so much more polite and well-brought-up than the ones polluted and coarsened by “government” schools. His mom must have been using the collected works of Ann Coulter as supplementary reading.

And in the NYT yesterday, a great read on the difficult effort to eradicate the guinea worm. This effort is led by Jimmy Carter, doubtless a figure of pure evil to people like Ben Domenech, but never mind that. It so happens I’m familiar with the guinea worm, having read not one but two mystery novels in which it plays a part — Randy Wayne White’s “Dead of Night” and the much artier “Smilla’s Sense of Snow.” (The latter was translated from its original Danish. In London, I found the English version, with the title “Smilla’s Feeling for Snow.” Two countries, separated by a common language.)

It was amazing to learn just how close we are to eradicating guinea worm, the details of which are not recommended to the weak of stomach or those with food fresh on the stomach. However, it’s those last few places where the larvae thrive that are proving most stubborn, and therein hangs a big meaty Sunday NYT tale. Worth the time.

Posted at 8:46 am in Media, Same ol' same ol' |

5 responses to “Weekend in the woods.”

  1. joodyb said on March 27, 2006 at 10:43 am

    hat’s off to ya. you earned major chits this weekend. sounds like nobody got bored, at least.
    the guinea worm thing is astonishing. that was but one jarring aspect of ‘smilla’ (a book at once disturbing and morbidly fascinating. i wonder how different the Brit translation is). i had never heard of such glacial organisms. kinda changes your perspective on biology.
    speaking of which, ruminants lick everything. they’re looking for salt, anywhere they can find it. glass is especially appealing because everything sticks to it.

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  2. Mindy said on March 27, 2006 at 4:13 pm

    My husband’s sister in Alaska is on the sheriff’s moose list. When moose are killed on the highway and reported, the next contact on the list is phoned and told he has an hour to claim and remove the moose. Just imagine canning road kill moose at two o’clock in the morning.

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  3. nancy said on March 27, 2006 at 4:44 pm

    Just imagine removing the moose. Having dealt, tangentially, with the difficulties posed by dead horses*, I can only imagine.

    * The chainsaw scene in “Animal House” wasn’t too far off the mark.

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  4. deb said on March 27, 2006 at 6:34 pm

    this explains a freelance submission i reviewed last week at work — a fairly funny poem about hating the noble moose. i thought everybody loved moose! those of with no exposure outside of, well, “northern exposure” would have no clue.

    p.s. snakes do get a bad rap. most of the ones you’ll find in your backyard (unless you live in, say, the sonoran desert) are actually beneficial because they keep hungry, more destructive forms of wildlife at bay.

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  5. 4dbirds said on March 28, 2006 at 10:25 am

    “Smilla’s Sense of Snow.�? I saw the movie. How does it rate against the book?

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