Saturday, September 24, 2005

Tooth and claw

It was my pleasure recently to blurb a little book of nature reflections by the Tennessee naturalist Lynne Bachleda. She responded with a copy of her book Dangerous Wildlife in the Southeast. It's a handsome book, profusely illustrated, and written with authority and humor. As someone who grew up in Tennessee, I never knew we were surrounded with so much danger. The usual stuff, of course: chiggers, ticks, mosquitoes. Wasps, hornets, bees. Poison ivy and poison sumac. We had our eye out for copperheads and rattlesnakes, but I never saw one, except in boxes out back of a snake-handler church in Rising Fawn, Georgia. (Rising Fawn: perhaps the prettiest community name in America.) Black widow spiders turned up now and then; we gave them a wide berth. But that's just a small part of the flora and fauna that Bachleda catalogs. We never even heard of the stinkpot turtle, the bird-voiced treefrog, the two-toed amphiuma, the "cow killer" ant, or the boodsucking conenose, to name just a few threatening species. Just as well, I suppose, or we might never have gone outside.