Lee Pitts: A Faults Alarm
There’s an unwritten rule of nature that says when two species share the same territory the weaker one will sooner or later leave or be run off. This is called “competitive exclusion” by educated people who want to show how smart they are. Basically, it’s nature’s way to keep everything where it belongs. It’s why Texans have rattlesnakes, fire ants and spiny brush, why Wyoming has wind, and why New Mexico has red and green chilies. If you can’t take the heat… feel free to get out of the kitchen.
I’m a fifth generation Californian and we’re famous for two natural disasters: earthquakes and liberals. In the case of some people who lived nearby, competitive exclusion is working just fine in keeping the riff-raff out and eliminating poor breeding stock.
I don’t know where they came from but when these liberals moved close by they thought they’d discovered paradise. It didn’t take long before it started losing its charm. I can pinpoint exactly when the luster started wearing off: about ten o’clock one morning when we had a baby earthquake. It was nothing really, and I probably wouldn’t even have noticed if the doors to my shop hadn’t rattled off their hinges. When you’ve lived through as many earthquakes as I have, 6.0 on the Richter scale is no big deal. A faults alarm, you might say. I hardly looked up from my leatherwork. But from a quarter mile away I heard this terrible scream and my new neighbor lady was running out of her house in her curlers and pajamas looking like she’d just seen a ghost. She ran over to my place seeking protection and yelled “THAT WAS AN AN EARTHQUAKE!”
“Nah,” I replied. “Not really. That was just a tremor.”
“But my refrigerator was walking across the kitchen floor!” she replied and for a moment there I thought she was going to have “a movement” herself if she didn’t calm down. I tried to calm her nerves, “You know there could be a few aftershocks.”
My new neighbor overreacted and wouldn’t go back into her house and when it got dark I went over to warn her about the mountain lions that prowled the neighborhood at night looking for something to eat. She ran back into her house as fast as she had run out of it that morning. Poor thing probably didn’t sleep a wink.
The next time I heard her she was screaming, “I just saw a rattlesnake in my back yard!”
“Yeah, they like to eat the rats around here,” I said. “If you kill any rattlers would you save their skins for me as I make knife sheaths out of them.” She looked at me like I ate children or something. The very next day there was a “For Sale” sign in front of the house they hadn’t lived in a month. I swear it’s true.
Later I saw a realtor friend and asked why my fraidy-cat neighbors had moved and my friend mentioned the earthquake, the rattlers and the rats, but the last straw she said was “a neighbor who brings wild animals into his house. I will not live next to a bunch of hillbillies who share their home with livestock,” my former neighbor supposedly said.
I guessed she was talking about yours truly. She must have been referring to the calf with scours we brought home from the ranch to treat and take care of.
I don’t know where my ex-neighbor moved but I’d guess it was North Dakota because it’s the only state in America that has never had an earthquake. If she is living there my North Dakota friends will know because on the first “brisk” day she’ll be the one wearing 14 heavy jackets, three pair of long johns, her teeth will be chattering and she’ll be screaming, “IT’S 20 BELOW ZERO. HOW DO YOU PEOPLE LIVE HERE?”
If you do see her tell her it’s probably good she left California because we recently had a pretty good little shaker. It even had me worried when I tried to get out of my house and the front door kept moving. Even the rattlesnakes left their underground homes. Yeah, it’s probably for the best that she got out when she did.