Driving up a suburban main street that is better paved and wider than most of the TransCanada highway, we saw a coyote scamper across the not-too-busy four lanes of traffic. Very cool. A real desert coyote. Desert coyotes are bigger than BC’s urban golf-course coyotes. About 1.5 times larger. Almost wolf-ish.
Standing on the driveway of our friend’s home, marveling at all the beige-all-over homes and their all-shiny vehicles, I saw a real Roadrunner (the actual bird) run down the street and disappear into someone’s back yard. That was also very cool. He/she seemed to be about the size of a chicken but way-stretched out. Long neck and tail feathers.
I mention those two sightings because they are, of course, symbolic to the area but also because there seems to be very little wildlife, even though this suburb is far out on the Phoenix metropolitan edges. Part of the reason, I suppose, is that deserts support less wildlife per square mile than do, say, areas like the Okanagan. Or even our home area. Another reason, I suspect, is that there are so many guns and so much shooting. This may NOT be a society of wanton killers or insatiable hunters but there are definitely a larger bunch of shooters and plonkers here than in most places. There are a lot of gun stores and ranges.
Arizona is still ‘open carry’, too. Some residents openly carry their handguns in public. To be fair, I have not seen any and that is largely because ‘concealed carry’ is also legal and I am sure that many people I pass have guns in their purses or in holsters unseen. I concluded this because at the giant local swap-meet (more like a giant western dollar store under tents) every fifth booth has some gun-related merchandise for sale with holsters and ‘conceal carry’ purses being amongst the more popular.
There is a third reason for less wildlife. Roundup and chemicals. The desert has bugs. It is home to ants in great, vast numbers. And people who build here in beige subdivisions do not want ants in their home. So, they use pesticide. But they do not sprinkle a little box around the place every spring or even use aerosol spray bombs. They hire roaming squads of Mexicans who carry double Scuba-sized clear plastic tanks on their backs and spray with battery powered wands a concentrated poison in every crook and cranny you can see. On any given day, I might see three or four guys wandering our neighbourhood spraying lethal crap. They don’t wear masks. Some wear gloves. Some don’t. This is truly an exercise in death for both the killer and the vanquished.
But they do NOT vanquish. When Sal and I go for walks, I often look down and see hundreds of little ant-exit holes. Walk a block on any street and you will find a dozen ant-exits in front of each house. Look ahead and you might see the local sprayer applying poison to the dozen or so ant-exits he has found in front of the house he is at. But the neighbours have dozens, too. And more spring up as you stand and watch. This is a battle in which we are likely losing more Mexicans than ants. It’s ridiculous and, worse, thousands and thousands of gallons of this poison is being released in to the community every month.
But walk through the lovely parks and the grass is green. Trees look good. Not a bug to be seen. This is sterile pretty. False.
I would say we don’t see many birds, either. You wouldn’t expect to see any if all their food is poisoned. But there is one species in relative abundance. A sort of dove…pigeon-esque but slimmer. Probably a dove. It coos.
But, that’s basically it. The odd Chickadee. Someone’s cat. There must be more somewhere but we don’t see it. There may be plenty of wildlife once you get well and truly away from the manicured suburbs but my overall impression is that wildlife in the area is rare. And there are hardly any bugs but ants.
Our suburb includes hundreds of homes each on decent sized lots (12,000 sft) and costing on average around US$250,000. Highest price closer to $400K and lowest around $210. They are all new and have all the mod-cons. If there is a ‘character’ to the neighbourhood, I don’t see it but the majority of owners are Mormon and there is a number of large Mormon churches sprinkled amongst the homes. One could say, this is a very ‘white’ neighbourhood but it would not be accurate. We have said hello to all hues of skin colour, all races and even some of the Mormon’s themselves. Everyone has been pleasant and friendly. Having said that, it is not a pedestrian kind of place. People in Arizona do not walk much. They need their car to go anywhere and, since their car is right next to their house, they are only briefly glimpsed. Now and then. Not often.
Sal and I were followed by two ‘elders’ on bikes during one of our forced marches the other day (Sal has a routine). Chatting the whole way. Very nice young men who came by their titles by having enrolled in the ministry of the Mormon church. They were young but classed as ‘elders’ as a rank of sorts in the somewhat rigid hierarchy of their system. We engaged them as any polite person might but declined their invitation to come to services as their guests. But, I liked them. They were fun. They laughed at my jokes and that’s how I judge people, mostly. They wished us a good holiday, reiterated our open invitation and blessed us. What’s not to like?
Adventure? Excitement? Even novelty or interest? Probably not. This ain’t the place for that except in one’s imagination. And we’ve been THERE in Accidental Fugitives. There are freeways and shopping centres, fast food chains and faux western imagery. Flat, straight, sunny. Cheap gas and Costco. And a bit of cactus here and there. Maybe a coyote, if you get lucky. But, seriously…? This is best for those over 80, maybe over 85.
So, we’ll be back…..