Reading Among the Ruins

books_kindle_graffiti_10-13-13 Background image by

I have been reading both new and classic books this week among the ruins (see photos below).

Martin Anderson, now almost in his 90th year, has written a fascinating memoir about fashioning a cattle and big-game preservation ranch in Africa: Galana: Elephant, Game Domestication, and Cattle on a Kenya Ranch. At one time Galana was believed to have been the largest single ranching operation in Africa, and one encouraged by the Kenyan government to be a model of tourism, cattle production, and wildlife protection. Galana is an analytical but also personal memoir about what Africa was like in its once hopeful and immediate postcolonial phase, and how Martin Anderson in his late thirties came to the Kenyan wild in 1960, when most Westerners were leaving, often for understandable reasons. When I last saw Martin two weeks ago, he was headed to Nairobi, undaunted by the recent Islamic violence at the shopping center, and eager to return to his ranch. When talking with Martin (who appears more like 65 than 89), one realizes that in some sense age is a state of mind -- and old age a referendum on a life either smartly or unwisely lived.

Speaking of the bush and the wild, as I was finishing rereading Galana last evening, I got a call from my son about a truck speeding out of the family vineyard alleyway across the road. Yes, I know, reader -- same old, same old:

vdh_article_photo_one_10-13-13-1 Photo by Victor Davis Hanson. Click to enlarge.

The miscreants had already dumped their trash: chemical drums, paints, solvents, oils, concrete, tires, garbage, and lots of broken fluorescent glass tubes -- something a bit worse than the usual toxic brew that is left on San Joaquin Valley property.

How strange that the California legislature can pass all sorts of new laws over the last six months -- transgendered access to either boy or girl restrooms in the public schools, the banning of lead bullets, driver's licenses for illegal aliens -- but it cannot go after the epidemic of destroying the ecology of the San Joaquin Valley countryside. If only there were a spotted toad or a lavender newt native to the vineyard, perhaps the Bay Area intelligentsia would change their views about unchecked illegal immigration. I think the rationale of the dumpers is that there are always enough law-abiding citizens left to pick up after the casual law-breaking of the fewer. But are the fewer still the fewer?