Opinion » Bill Cope

The Wilderness Kill

Petite poems on paltry people


There are too many people on earth insipid, unsalted, rabbity, endlessly hopping. They nibble the face of the earth to a desert.

The preceding, gentle reader, is a poem. It may not be your idea of a poem, but nevertheless, it is. I am not a discriminating critic of poetry, so I have no intention of getting into the question of whether it's a good poem or not. But I can tell you it was written by an enormously famous writer, David Herbert Lawrence. It's not clear when he wrote it, but it was first published in 1932, two years after he died.

Whether it's a good poem or not, though, has nothing to do with whether it carries a good thought, and I believe we here in 2006--where the earth's population is triple what it was in 1932--might benefit by questioning exactly what that thought is. Is Lawrence saying, simply, that the humans are breeding themselves out of a decent place to live?

Or does he mean, more darkly, that everything noble about our species is being smothered out by vapid, thoughtless, characterless, honorless nothings--rabbity nothings--who corrupt everything they touch with their meaningless self-indulgence and who turn our human experience into a barren wasteland?

Jeez, I don't know. I'm pretty sure it's one or the other, but I told you I'm not a poetry critic, so don't come crying to me for the right answer. All I know is, when I stumbled across Lawrence's poem last week, it crystallized my thoughts on a matter that has long troubled me. And it has emboldened me to say what I've been thinking about a particular someone for some time, ever since he made a name for himself by becoming Idaho's most vociferous opposition to the presence of wolves in our semi-wild state. I'm talking about Ron Gillette. Mr. "Get Rid Of Wolves By Whatever Means" Gillette. Mr. "The Only Good Wolf Is A Dead Wolf" Gillette.

So here it is, Mr. Gillette. Thanks to long-gone D.H. Lawrence, I am now certain of what you really are. You're a nothing. A rabbity nothing. A craven, insipid, rabbity nothing with a flapping mouth full of nibbling lies and a heart full of wormy self-interest. And your presence here in our semi-wild state is a damn sight less essential than the presence of wolves. If you have your way and wolves disappear from Idaho, millions of people from across the country and from around the world will miss them. Millions will mourn them. And mark my words, millions will do whatever it takes to get them back.

But if you disappear, Mr. Gillette, I doubt if more than a handful of hillbillies would give a shit.

Crude words, I admit. But crude people deserve crude words. And Gillette, in a state that produces more than its share of crude people, is one of the crudest. As a leader of some ignorant outfit with a semi-respectable sounding name, the "Idaho Anti-Wolf Coalition," he stirs up fear and loathing among the gullible with one canis lupus whopper after another. He claims the Canadian wolves reintroduced into Idaho are a different species from the original variety. (You know ... as though wolves were keeping check at the border.) He claims that wolves kill for the fun of it. (You know ... like out-of-state hunters don't?)

He claims that wolves reproduce like Mormons until they overwhelm an ecosystem, and that when they have finished off all the plant-eaters within reach, they kill all the predators, and then turn cannibal. He calls wolves "wildlife terrorists." He calls wolves "land piranhas." He claims things even children know is crap. A thousand wildlife specialists can spend a thousand hours each observing, researching, learning ... then comes this one, crude bumpkin, undoing all that better people have done. If it weren't such a serious matter, Gillette would be a sick joke.

But let us be clear what sort of joke Gillette truly represents. By trade, he's an outfitter--a profession closely related to pimping, in that both involve leading the lusty to an easy, if not cheap, gratification. Gillette also rents out cabins in the Stanley Basin to out-of-state hunters, and one of his worries is that his clients won't return if there aren't enough ungulates in the area to kill. (You know ... for the fun of it.)

So that's the joke ... that hunting--in Gillette's version of the sport--is still a sport. Or a challenge. Or anything beyond him and his johns getting their gratification with the least possible effort.

What Gillette represents is a de-clawed Idaho. A toothless Idaho. The rabbity Idaho, where ATVs have taken the place of walking, outfitters have taken the place of stalking, cabins have taken the place of camps, and if the killing doesn't come easy, the solution is to eliminate the competition. It's "Six Flags Over Idaho," an amusement park where you can even see your next cheeseburger grazing on public lands, where even Dick Cheney could bag an elk, and to get that trophy rack on your mediocre suburban wall, all you have to do is warm the seat of a four-wheeler all the way to where some guide has laid out a kill for you like slippers under your bed.

It's the Idaho of tourists. A big, picturesque, frontier adventure--not unlike Busch Gardens or Sea World--only with toadies to row the boat while you leisurely troll for steelhead. With toadies to cook you up a juicy black bear steak from the bear the same toadies so conveniently arranged for you to plug. With toadies, like Gillette, to plead the case that the only thing that matters anymore is whatever makes the customer happy.

That's what Gillette is, a toadie. Better yet ... a carney, strapping thrill seekers into their wilderness seats. Word is, he likes to dress up like a cowboy, but let us not be deceived. With or without the costume, he is only one of the rabbits, endlessly hopping as they nibble the face of the earth to a desert.

Again, I thank D.H. Lawrence. His bitter little three-liner, even eight decades old as it is, describes the Ron Gillettes of the world better than a phalanx of 24-hour news networks and an ether full of Internet. And in that same spirit of poetic excess, I'd like to conclude with a poem of my own. I don't know if it's any good or not, but like even the worst poetry, it's only meant to be the shortest distance to the broadest stroke.

There are too few wolves on earth, and in their stead, the drivel, the dregs, the hawking of paltry, twaddling, forgettable fools.