I, Philistine

phil·is·tine/ˈfiləˌstēn/

noun

  1. a person who is hostile or indifferent to culture and the arts, or who has no understanding of them.

Okay, so I’m not really indifferent to culture and the arts and while many question my understanding, I do have some. Understanding, that is. Just don’t try to confirm that with anyone who knows me well.

In any event, I propose to expand the definition a tad, because with my proposed expansion, philistine fits me well. I would add “indifference to wild animals.” So, yeah, I’m a philistine. Which is not to say I feel hostility to animals in the wild or want to do them harm, like say, shoot them (hi Rick!), but neither do their presence make my heart pound with excitement they way they do to some people (again, hi, Rick!). (Yes, yes, Rick falls in both categories. He loves seeing wild animals and he shoots them. Not always the same ones, mind you, but still. It kind of reminds me of a fictitious advertisement for the Navy I ran across many years ago.)

Fake poster recreated from memory. This is what passed for memes in my (very ancient now) day.

So, again I don’t have anything against (or for) animals in the wild, only, as the definition implies, I don’t really care whether I see them. I like to think wild animals and I have a symmetric relationship. They care as much about seeing me as I do about seeing them.

Now, I know you’re asking, Kev (in my head that’s what you all call me) how did you discover this about yourself. Funny you should ask. I was just about to explain.

The Lovely Marianne and I have have visited Yellowstone National Park three times in the last three years. Once in winter once in spring and once in summer. The differences between winter on the one hand and spring and summer on the other are stark.

Marianne in the Park, lovely in spring or winter

But there is a constant in any season. Traffic jams. Ah, I can hear you now,”Traffic jams in the winter? How is that possible? I can almost understand traffic jams in the summer, but winter? I used to enjoy your posts, but now you’re just making stuff up!” Not so, my friends. In the winter I said and in the winter I meant. And summer, winter, spring or fall, the cause is always the same–wildlife.

Picture this: you’re driving along admiring the scenery excited to get to Yellowstone Falls, or Old Faithful, or Norris Basin, when break lights flare up and everyone stops.

There they are, stopped.

Why? Because someone spotted, or think they spotted, or wanted to spot a __________ (fill in the blank with your favorite animal).

Ants?

Well, maybe not ants, but anything else. In the case of the jam pictured above, it was a bear.

Do you see a bear? Yeah, neither did we.

Or at least that was the rumor we heard from others who pulled off the road with us. “Oh, you just missed it!” Right. According to one of the crowd, the bear had disappeared into the brush on the left seconds before we exited our car. I remained dubious.

On occasion, very rare occasion, even I, philistine that I am, concede a traffic jam is unavoidable. When a buffalo ambles down the road in the oncoming traffic lane, okay, everybody has to slow down.

Yeah, that’s an exception.

But otherwise, seriously? Here for example.

See that black lump? That’s a bear. But I only learned that from someone with binoculars.

Okay, I see that is some form of animal, but really, from that distance without magnification, I would have no idea.

Bison are everywhere in the park. We stopped to use the potty at one point and this guy just wandered into my path, grazing away.

I didn’t approach the wildlife, honest. He approached me.

So, I have to ask, why does a line of cars come to a complete halt for this?

Home on the range where the buffalo roam.

And yes, as I said, winter is just as bad. Our snowmobile group halted on numerous occasions because people were so excited to see animals.

The ubiquitous buffalo (or bison is you’re pretentious) and something else eating another something else.
The Lovely Marianne. Oh, and an elk in the background.

My philisitinism gradually surfaced as I examined my reactions to these constant, interminable slow downs. “For cryin’ out loud, it’s just a buffalo!” Or fill in the blank with your own least favorite animal. After a while (say midway through our first day in the park) I realized I didn’t care about the wildlife. I wanted to see a geyser. By the end of the first day, I knew what I was.

This is how ridiculous it gets. On our way back to West Yellowstone one evening cars in front of us slowed then stopped. At the Lovely Marianne’s urging, we pulled over and mingled with the crowd peering in the dusk for wildlife.

I don’t see any. Do you?

As you do in those situations when the reason for the gathering was not immediately apparent, I asked one of the crowd what everyone was looking at. “The sunset,” she said. “Isn’t it pretty?”

Yes, it was.

I lifted my eyes to the horizon. Yep, it was gorgeous. My impatience slackened. I had nowhere else to be. So, the Lovely Marianne and I lingered and enjoyed the show. It was spectacular, even without wildlife.

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