Animal Planet

We started our day on pavement along the Cowlitz River.

Soon pavement became gravel.  Ugh.

We stopped at a closed railroad company gate with a deep ditch on each side.

Jeffrey figured out how to open it: remove rock from hole in latch, swing latch, lift heavy gate on shoulder, pull handle to slide cylinder from rusty chamber, swing gate aside.  He pushed our machine through, closed the gate, and reversed the process.

Off we went.

Wooden trestles are common here.

The air was 24F (-4C), cold enough to congeal the oil in the front derailleur.  Suddenly Jeffrey could not shift gears without pushing the derailleur with his hand.

Jeffrey had ditched his leaking bottle of lubricating oil.  He tried loosening bolts to free the derailleur joints.  It didn’t help.

Jerry to the rescue!

L to R: Joey, Jerry. Nice sandals!

Jerry is a Northwest Renaissance Retiree.  Semi-pro surfer, school construction worker, horticulturalist—he’s happy with his lot, and therefore is rich.  He brought some WD-40 and a more exotic oil from his house across the road, and applied some to our machine.  Problem solved!

Jerry knows what’s important and what doesn’t matter.  He sees history repeating, as ever it does: the lessons of the past don’t stick.  The Refugee Act became law 41 years after the SS St. Louis (“The Voyage of the Damned”) was forced back to Nazi Europe with its refugee passengers.  People in our government remembered this and were ashamed.  Those now running the government have forgotten the St. Louis.  Here We Go Again, this time on our southern border rather than in our seaports.

While we talked, Jerry’s neighbor Sam stopped by.

L to R: Joey, Sam. Nice vest!

Cyclist Sam also is a Renaissance Retiree. He worked in construction (“If you want to work with concrete and stay young, invent lightweight concrete!”), for UPS, and more. He thinks Americans, deep down, love war, because they want to Belong to a Group. Maybe this is related to the Us versus Them narrative our rulers tell as part of demonizing immigrants and refugees.

After Jerry gave Jeffrey lessons on local history and trees and we’d solved the world’s problems, he and Sam wished us well.

We rolled north.

Sewage keeps Washington green.

Both walking and shooting are casual in these parts.

No shoulder. Miles of rough pavement, the kind that makes tires buzz and slows car and bike alike. Lightly traveled, though, so no traffic stress. Just hard work.

Pea gravel in an asphalt matrix makes for a slow, uncomfortable ride.

Turn left for Vader. Darth? We didn’t detour to find out.

Vader. Enchanted Valley. It fits!

Mt. Rainier from maybe 60 miles away.  On a clear day one almost can touch it.

We passed farms and ranches where animals grazed and gazed.




What sounds do alpacas make?


Animals vocalize.  They graze noisily: chew, chew, chew.  Somehow it’s charming.  But if a human makes the same sounds—especially chewing—it drives some people crazy.

And so it is with migration.

One objection to walling off the southern border is that barriers stop animal migration and isolate animal populations.  Department of Homeland Security (DHS) walls and fences are exempt from environmental regulations.  Coue’s Rice Rat, Reticulated Collared Lizards, and Arroyo Toads are among hundreds of “nonflying mammals, reptiles and amphibians” at risk from border barriers.

The animals are collateral damage.  The real targets are people.

We punish human migrants for Breathing While Foreign.   No matter how innocuous, no matter how many Americans need them and love them, some people simply cannot stand their presence.

Just like they love animal crunching but cannot stand listening to grandpa chew.

Those irritable people control the levers of power.

Meet Mayra.

Mayra is a DACA kid, a Dreamer. She was brought here at age 11. She graduated high school and attended college. She’s the married mother of four U.S. citizens; the oldest is age 9. She works, pays taxes, supports her parents abroad, and contributes to her community. Her presence here hangs by a thread.

If Mayra were a deer or an armadillo, even if she ate with loud crunching sounds, who’d object to her coming and going and being with the ones she loves?

Not all animals are human.  But all humans are animals.

Maybe no animals matter to DHS.

All animals should matter to you and me.

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