An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of December 18, 2006
Issued from Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve Headquarters
in Jalpan Querétaro,  MÉXICO

BOOM-BOOM, CROAK-CROAK

This is the time of year when a vast exodus of working Mexicans floods south from the US diffusing out into Mexico's thousands of little towns and villages more or less like Jalpan. Jalpan's general atmosphere has changed enormously from two weeks ago.

Mainly you see it on the steep, narrow streets now jammed with cars and pickup trucks with US license plates. Up north these folks may be only the shadows you see hustling in the backrooms of restaurants, the humble, stooped-over fieldworkers you pass in your car, or maybe the anonymous construction workers across from your office, but, down here, now, they are kings. They have returned home in triumph. They are powerbrokers and people of vision, bigwigs, people who have seen and done it all.

A fair percentage of these returning workers are young men and one way they impress the local folks with their success is to drive their fancy cars equipped with sound systems with speakers that can jar the fillings from your teeth from half a mile away. Day and night, day after day, night after night, up and down the one main street of this little town the boom, boom, boom of the base line of songs erupts from one car or pickup truck after another. Higher-frequency lyrical notes get filtered out half a mile away but these very low bass notes rumble through trees, through walls, right through my body and my soul, day and night. It's like being inside the guts of a flatulent dinosaur. Add to this the continuing rocket explosions set off by wandering Baby-Jesus-statue carriers and the cathedral's unpredictable outbursts of tolling bells and you have something to consider.

Thursday night I camped beside the reservoir near the Reserve HQ. Right after sundown the first carload of young people arrived on a peninsula across the lake and they came in a car with a grand sound system. Over half a mile of silvery water speckled with startled coots and nervous Blue-winged Teal the boom-boom-booms came. I am pretty sure the nylon walls of my tent shuddered with each boom but how could I know with my eyeballs jiggling so?

The booms made frogs start calling. And what must have been those frogs' thoughts as they heard the boomings of what surely was a competitor frog ten stories tall? Yet, this is the wonderful thing: Those little frogs around my tent gamely replied to the behemoth across the lake with their own normal croaks, just as if they had not lost all hope of having their own croaks heard.

So, I lay there in my tent Thursday night admiring frogs. Also, I thought about this: Clearly, on this Earth there are very many more folks wanting big speakers to boom their primal calls across the waters than there are we who prefer that our frogs and ourselves stay unbothered.

These days, seeing more clearly than ever what an ever-diminishing, lost-cause minority I find myself in, my continuing to think these thoughts and issue these words is my own normal croaking, just as if I had not lost all hope. Facebook Icon.