Letter from John Walker
Hal Walter’s August 99 column – September 1999 – Colorado Central Magazine
Nature will not miss the god made of gunpowder
In an age where technology makes many feel powerless, it is comforting to know that a gun can still transform a man into a god blessed with the power of life and death. I am referring to Hal Walter, whose “Killer Coyotes” (August, 1999) administers CPR to the moribund notion of “good animal” vs. “bad animal.” From his ranchette on Mount Olympus, Walter laments that deer are eaten by coyotes rather than Division of Wildlife license-holders like himself. He also bemoans his six missing house cats while expressing no regrets over loosing a half-dozen exotic predators into the wild. In a final challenge to credulity, the writer claims to be “a part of nature.”
Walter’s rifle makes him a part of nature in the same way my souvenir Broncos patch cap — free with a case of motor oil — made me a player in Super Bowl XXXII. The very notion is a luxury of mental rumination made possible by a technological lifestyle and would have seemed absurd to generations of Walters who worked and struggled to create a world apart from nature. Because of them, a trip in his world begins not with the first step, but with the turn of an ignition key. The chill of winter is held at bay by a tank of propane, or a pull on the starter cord of a chainsaw. Only after he shucks his car, comfortable house, factory-made clothes and weaponry will he begin the final approach that might land him in nature.
By trotting out the tired cliche that “nature is cruel,” Walter excuses his own behavior and virtually every other act of cruelty. But whether by commission or omission, cruelty is a deliberate act, has no survival value, and is therefore beyond the capability of the wild predator.
Because of his small size, the coyote must seek small prey in order to be successful. He kills not to reinforce some imaginary link to nature or a mountain man fantasy, but to eat, to feed his young and to survive in a place that countless generations of his ancestors knew as home.
Perhaps Mr. Walter believes the Disneyesque myth that predators take only the sick and aged. Yet among prolific species such as mule deer, most animals who are ill or decrepit will already have reproduced and endangered their habitat through overpopulation. In nature, population control is usually achieved at the expense of the young. Even the human population explosion did not begin until significant reductions were made in infant mortality.
Hopefully Walter will someday take his narrow view of nature back to the place that spawned it. Rest assured that the deer, coyotes and cottontails of the Rocky Mountains will not mourn the departure of the god made of gunpowder.
John Walker, Coaldale