Monday, November 1, 2010

Casting a Narrow Net.

c. David Grim (taken 10/23/10)

I read something strange in Richard Price's book "Lush Life"- "A deer never travels more than a mile from where it was born and always walks in the path of its ancestors." Now, I have NO idea whether such a claim is true, and after a five-minute internet search I suspect that it is not. However it is a very fascinating claim nonetheless. Perhaps it's simply received wisdom among those that grew up hunting. Price grew up a middle-class Jewish kid in the Bronx, and stayed there for college, so if I had to guess I'd say that he wouldn't know for sure. But of course I could be mistaken.

I guess this contention makes some sense. After all, the wilderness in this nation is so denuded that there aren't many tracts of unspoiled land for deer to roam free in. Furthermore, what unspoiled areas remain are interrupted by roads. Animals often find their ends as moving targets for automobiles, so evolution could slowly be selecting for the wily deer that stick to the known paths. But I'm sure scientists would say that there is no way that natural selection can work so quickly. I'm as much a scientist as I am a hunter.

Anyway, it's a poetic conceit nonetheless, regardless of its accuracy. We see deer as leaping freely and bounding through a world of wooded possibility. We generally don't view them as circumscribed by tradition. Nor do they emanate from our imaginations as symbols for attachment to place. The idea that there is something substantial to learn about their migration patterns is enticing. After all, they are the largest mammal to regularly choose to place themselves on the periphery of human activity.

Ultimately Price's claim serves simply as a contrast/comparison to human behavior. He employs it to comment on the phenomenon of urban criminals typically carrying out their misdeeds close to home base. Maybe the layperson would suggest engaging in unsavory acts far from one's domicile. I can't attest to the relative worth of such a suggestion, as I have generally managed to keep my nose clean. But in the end maybe we are simply animals, and there is something to be gained by examining the habits of those creatures closest (at least in proximity) to us. Folk storytellers have been doing so for centuries.

1 comment:

  1. we'll know it's messed up when no one cares when dead humans lie on the side of the highway. There's a good metaphoric comparison to ponder.