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
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
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