It was a prairie dog drive-by in Santa Fe involving a retired guy named Bruce (who obviously couldn't shoot straight), his pickup truck, a snazzy pellet gun with a telescopic sight, and a do-gooder named Steve, who said, according to the local newspaper, that "he had been sitting in his own car near Galisteo Street, using binoculars to conduct surveillance" on a prairie dog village where he claimed 14 prairie dogs have died from pellet gun wounds in the past few weeks.
Even though Santa Fe has many more of the rodents than it needs, dead prairie dogs upset Steve in the worst way. But prairie dog surveillance? The very idea boggles the mind, but Steve is nothing if not a rodent-loving mind-boggler (Santa Fe is full of mind-boggling lovers of one thing or another, but I keep away from them). So he's sitting in his car conducting surveillance when (eureka!) he sees a pellet gun barrel poke out of a pickup truck window. And. Bang! A shot rings out (It is a pellet rifle. So, I suppose it was, Pooft! A shot etc., etc.). First Steve runs to check on the prairie dogs (because he is a man who has his priorities straight), but finds no rodent carnage. I'm sure that disappointed him just a little (I am also sure that Steve, being Steve, would he have administered CPR or applied teeny-tiny rodent bandages or lamented the dead, whatever was necessary). No deaths or injuries. Whew! But Steve (again, being Steve) then rats out Bruce (rodent habits are as contagious as are some of the diseases their fleas carry) and the police cite Bruce for animal cruelty. Bruce claims he didn't kill the other 14 rodents, says he has nothing against prairie dogs "per se" (but knows Santa Fe has too many of them and they carry diseases like plague) and that, while he admits he fired the errant shot, he is "not a terminator" of prairie dogs and will man-up and accept whatever punishment is handed down. Steve no doubt is somewhere giggling in delight.
And then the story ends up on the front page of the Santa Fe New Mexican. Who, what, when, where and why did that happen? There are reasons. But this isn't about newspapers. It's about do-gooders and the silliness of prairie dog surveillance.
I don't particularly like do-gooders, but I really don't like do-gooders who aren't doing all that much good about anything that matters. At the top of my list are the fearless prairie dog protectors of Santa Fe - the most self-righteous bunch of handwringers in a city full of self-righteous handwringers.
They call themselves People for Native Ecosystems (sounds grand,doesn't it?) though their stated single purpose is to save prairie dogs, specifically Gunnison prairie dogs. That's it. And they are volunteers who work only for what they advertise as that "warm feeling of knowing you are assisting someone or something who/which really needs your help." Of course a prairie dog is a "something" not a "someone" and a "which" not a "who," but these people don't care. They prefer helping rodents to helping people (I wonder if they ever ask themselves why?) and will go to great lengths to do their "job" - for nothing more than what they advertise as that "warm feeling" that do-gooders strive to achieve. It sounds positively orgasmic the way they say it. So the prairie dog protectors must feel so warm and good about the story of Bruce, Steve and the prairie dog drive-by on the front page of the daily newspaper that they want to roll over and smoke a cigarette in the afterglow.
Another do-gooder really believes he's done something good. And I suspect Steve believes in his heart he is saving the world one cute little prairie dog as a time. But what good has he actually done?
I know prairie dogs are cute as all get out - and some people think cute doesn't deserve to die (ask any aging, formerly "cute" person - but I'm with Bruce on this one (and with the guy who suggested that if Steve and his bunch are really interested in Native Ecosystems, they will introduce rattlesnakes and other prairie dog predators - maybe even a wolf - to take care of the problem the old fashioned way. Steve can conduct surveillance and watch it happen. He might even hear the hiss, the rattle, the growl).
Years ago I had a friend named Bruce, a quiet and peaceful fellow from Tennessee pursuing a ph.d. in literature, who ended up with a skunk in the wall of the farmhouse he was renting outside Iowa City. He tried trapping it and when that didn't work he borrowed my shotgun. He hadn't fired a gun in years and didn't know if he could actually shoot the skunk, but a few days later he returned the shotgun and said with a shy grin, "I had forgotten how much fun it is to kill small, helpless creatures." He's right. It produces a warm feeling. A tingle. Thrilling. Almost orgasmic. I know the feeling. Steve would recognize it. But I'm sticking with Bruce.