I Just Woke This Dream

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  • I Just Woke This Dream

    J. C. McClung

    Department of Anthropology, University of Washington, Seattle,Washington.

    My father was what you might call a survivalist country

    person. He always said that he felt like he was born in the

    wrong century, and when I was a child he bought some

    property in Arizona. Whenever he had long visitations

    with me, we would go out to the northern Arizona high desert and live

    off the land, hunt, haul water, work on his cabin, and tend to his garden

    beds made out of old tractor tires. We would wander the Desert

    Mountains exploring for new kinds of filled emptiness.

    By the time I was nine or ten, my dad had confidence in me to

    wander around alone. Of course I always had a gun and knife on me,

    but that was pretty typical of solitary desert life.

    I remember there being a constant respect for every step because of

    the always-present danger of rattlesnakes. Even mundane things

    such as putting on shoes or taking a shower required vigilant shaking

    or plugging of drains because of scorpions. I also had to be aware of

    mountain lions, hantavirus, and coyotes, but most importantly,

    where water could be found.

    My dad was in the Navy, so there would be stretches of months that

    he couldnt be on the land. He would drive to California to pick me up

    from my mom, and we would get back to the land and find coyote

    scat on the porch, along with rattlesnakes nearly everywhere. The

    spaces around the cabin would exhibit the signs of a mountain lion

    den with rabbit and deer carcasses. And once we found an owl that

    had nested around the roof.

    At night bats would be so thick in the sky their flapping bodies

    would block out the moon. From sunup to sundown, cicadas would

    creak and croak, filling the air with their buzz. There werent just wild

    creatures but also wild bandit sort of outcast people peppered

    throughout the mountains and valleys. Antisocial folks that were too

    bizarre, strange, and flat-out mean to coexist with city folks.

    There was Crazy Ernest, a man in his 60s with a tangled beard,

    who would either be naked most of the time or in a dress or a tutu. He

    had fears that someday someone (enemies or federal agents) would

    raid his place, so he captured rattlesnakes and built rattlesnake dens

    and habitats all around his property as a defensive precaution. My

    dad always said he had a screw loose.

    There was Trip, another fella in his 60s, who was the most gnarled

    and grizzled desert rat you could ever imagine. I remember being so

    fascinated by his trembling crooked fingers as he wrapped his hands

    around his coffee mug. His wife Andy would wear sandals year

    round, and her feet were always dry and as tough as goats feet. They

    never had kids, but they raised dogs that they loved like children. The

    only thing they ever feared was dying before their dogs and their

    dogs being lonely or having to fend for themselves. After their oldest

    dog passed, Trip and Andy were soon gone and their ashes spread in

    the cedars along with the ashes of all the past dogs. Under the

    fountain that Trip had built for the hummingbirds.

    In my dream last night I returned to this land, and it was gone. In

    its place were paved roads, sidewalks, houses, power lines and poles,

    gas stations, and thousands upon thousands of apartment complexes

    of people. I wasnt crying because I couldnt go anywhere I wanted to

    anymore but because it meant the disappearance of every bug, snake,

    cactus, tree, rabbit, owl, bat, cougar, and bandit. All those people

    were now talking about how there was nothing there before they

    came.

    But all I could see was that they were dancing in a city that stood

    like a tombstone to a grave, and I cried until I woke.

    Address correspondence to:

    J. C. McClung

    Department of Anthropology

    University of Washington

    4218 Memorial Way NE

    Seattle, WA 98105

    E-mail: johncmcc@uw.edu

    Received: August 2, 2013

    Accepted: September 5, 2013

    DOI: 10.1089/eco.2013.0041 MARY ANN LIEBERT, INC. VOL. 5 NO. 3 SEPTEMBER 2013 ECOPSYCHOLOGY 205