Life and Death in Yellowstone

In February and March, I took a trip through the frigid landscapes of some of our most famous national parks, and it gave me the opportunity, once again, to observe the unfiltered and uncompromising brutality of the natural world as opposed to the safe, politically correct, and very unnatural lives that most of us live today.  For example:

In Lamar Valley (“America’s Serengeti”), I watched, transfixed, as a coyote, standing inside of the carcass of a buffalo, gnawed on its frozen flesh, while nearby, a grey wolf slept off a full belly of venison: a prize taken from the bison he’d just killed.  Ravens and buzzards hopped quickly to grab their own piece of the bounty before quickly flitting off lest they, too, became victims of nature’s one unyielding rule: only the strongest and most adaptable survive.  No participation trophies, no second chances,  no extra credit.  Only victory…or death. 

Later, as we left Yellowstone, we inadvertently interrupted a pack of wolves circling a small herd of buffalo.  At the approach of our vehicle, they suddenly broke off and scattered into a tall lodgepole pine forest covered in thick snow.  Only the leader momentarily remained atop a nearby knoll- alone, aloof, and proud, angry eyes now fixed on our group, seeming to send us an icy message: leave, now.  This place is too hard and cruel for the likes of you. 

And the wolf was right.  But it hasn’t always been the case.  Mountain men once lived here, alone: they carved out a place for themselves with little more than a long rifle and a Bowie knife, living by their wits and wilderness skills- often by themselves, always outnumbered, constantly fighting the animals, the elements, and the natives, yet living as free perhaps as any people in the world have ever lived, before or since.  Legends like James Beckwourth, a freed slave, John Colter (who “discovered” Yellowstone), famous frontiersman Kit Carson, John “Liver Eating” Johnson (of Jeremiah Johnson movie fame), and maybe the baddest badass of them all, Hugh Glass (“star” of The Revenant), who really did survive an attack by a grizzly bear and still manage to crawl or walk 300 miles to safety after his friends buried him alive and left him for dead.

Now, I ask, where are those people today?  Do they exist?  And, does it matter, in a world awash in participation trophies and gimmes?

The truth is, it doesn’t matter at all…at least, not right now.  A child born today is unlikely to ever need to kill an animal with his own hands, or indeed to ever even need to find directions without a GPS.  He is a product of a system designed to pamper, indulge, and promote regardless of actual potential, and to a position of power far beyond his actual ability.  If he is unable to succeed, an army of sociologists and shrinks will supply him with ready-made excuses.  He will be told that he didn’t fail-it was his parents, peers, or “society” that failed him, and if he succeeds, it will be because he could game the system somehow.  And this dynamic will work…right up until the moment it doesn’t.  

At some point, though, I predict we will find ourselves up against an implacable enemy.  He won’t care about our sloppy work, bad habits, or daddy issues, he won’t be impressed with affirmative action credentials or set asides for poor performance, and he won’t be amused by free tuition, free health care, free housing, or corporate welfare. 

But that Wolf will be hungry, and he’ll be looking for the easy prey.  He’ll be hunting those who stand around waiting for government help when he comes knocking on their door.  He’ll be stalking those who think that the important issues are not life and death, but rather global warming, Russian collusion, reparations, and gender identity.  He will find them, and he will feast on them.  

And whether that Wolf is an economic collapse, a civil war, an alien invasion, or a nuclear holocaust doesn’t matter right now.  All that will matter is one thing: who is a mountain man, and who isn’t.  Who is the bison, and who is the wolf.  Because most of the world works just like Lamar Valley, and the sooner we realize that, the better off we’ll be.  

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