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  • If we could talk to the animals ...

  • When you come right down to it, aren't we all just someone else's stink bug?
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  • When you come right down to it, aren't we all just someone else's stink bug?
    We're the tourist, the new kid on the first day of school, the co-op shopper trying to navigate a Fred Meyer parking lot. For others, that sense of dread hanging heavy in the skies above our eyes carries the unwelcome, smoke-filled stench of intrinsic separation that compels the ostracized to stick their heads in the sand.
    We speak, of course, of Californians.
    At least those invasive species can go back from whence they came — taking only photographs, leaving only footprints and Benjamins. But for creatures such as the stink bug, whose destiny is the inevitability of ethnic cleansing, there is no return home.
    Like so many visitors, they came for the bounty of Southern Oregon wines, drunk with possibilities of abundance and reproduction, doomed to suffer the wrath of grape-lovers and a hangover that no Bloody Mary will relieve.
    All stink bugs are equal, but some stink bugs are more equal than others. And we were here first. Relatively speaking.
    We must know best because we walk on two legs, flock to our weekly services at the church of "Duck Dynasty," and protect our stink bug offspring from unexpected attack through the availability of the latest in back-to-school supplies "» the bulletproof backpack.
    Yup.
    You read that right.
    Out there, companies are making backpacks, bulletin boards and briefcases — and, for all we know, pocket protectors — out of what they claim to be bulletproof materials.
    One San Diego concern, Mighty Mojo, sells something called the LifePlate — a backpack insert that the company claims can stop a bullet from a .44 Magnum fired from 15 feet away.
    It costs $149.95. With the unplugged nickel in change, you can book a therapy session with Dr. Van Pelt.
    A LifePlate, of course, protects only so much of the body. The exposed remainder of the potential target — we used to call them "schoolchildren" — is left to the whims of fate "» like the cow at the start of the "Under the Dome" miniseries.
    One minute, munching its cud, feeling a bit lactose intolerant, wondering whether its stem cells will be harvested to make a McDNA burger; the next, sliced in half by a barely visible impenetrable shield.
    A cow hasn't been less certain about what was going to hit it since Monty Python wheeled out the catapult.
    It's been, overall, a pretty brutal summer for cattle. Herds have been moved out of their grazing fields in Klamath County because the drought has left them with nothing to graze. It's an episode of When Jokes Come To Life "» the blank painting canvas called "Cows Eating Grass."
    Where's the grass? Grass is all gone. Where are the cows? You don't expect the cows to stick around without anything to eat, do you?
    That'll be $149.95.
    The famed Butter Cow at the Iowa State Fair was attacked by a group of vegan anarchists (surprisingly NOT from Ashland) who slathered it in red paint to simulate blood. The paint, which was scraped off with (what else?) a butter knife, was not itself organic "» which might have been ironic had anyone other than a few fair workers actually seen the desecration of the famed Iowa State Fair Butter Cow.
    A more lasting monument to the interaction of man and beast also will never see the light of day "» at least in our state capital.
    PETA wanted to erect a 5-foot-tall, 250-pound statue of a chicken in memory of the hundreds killed and injured when a cargo truck carrying the fickle fowls of fate overturned as it tried to cross a road in downtown Salem.
    Want to know why? That'll cost another $149.95.
    It's no wonder the animal kingdom has such difficulty surviving the superiority of the fittest species "» if you don't count the growing obesity problem from eating too many animal products in the first place.
    Humans want to kill barred owls to protect spotted owls. The barred owls will be having drinks with the stink bugs at some point, damning their names.
    While an owl family has set up shop in Lithia Park, tree-sitters have been, well, sitting in trees near Myrtle Creek to protest a timber sale — which they see as an unnatural use for the trees in question.
    Unlike, you know, squatting in them to get closer to nature.
    At least they're better off than the marbled murrelets whose habitat trees were taken down during breeding season near Port Orford when federal agencies got their signals crossed. The murrelets will have to rely on the the whoosh of the waves to get in the mood.
    Then there's Mark "Coonrippy" Brown, a Tennessee man who gained Internet fame for dancing with his pet raccoon, Gunshow. When Gunshow died (probably wasn't wearing a bulletproof backpack), he had his second pet raccoon taken from him by state officials after YouTube videos surfaced of the two showering together.
    Perhaps Mr. Brown can get himself a ringtail cat, the previously hermit-like creature in Southern Oregon that has a raccoon-like tail. A mother and child that were minding their own business are now being tracked with GPS collars — and, for all we know, the NSA and a closed-circuit monitoring system on loan from Shady Cove Elementary School — to determine how they live and what their views are on the politically heated argument over cloth vs. disposable diapers.
    Eventually, the more-equal stink bugs among us will gather enough information about the ringtails to make moral and ethical decisions about their place in the world and how they co-habitate with the creatures they encounter. That's our role in the circle of life — determiner of fate, meter-outer of justice, deciderer of which species are natives, which are invasive, and which — like Ted Cruz — have dual citizenship.
    It's our birthright. After all, look how well we've done bringing peace to the Middle East.
    Mail Tribune news editor Robert Galvin can be reached at rgalvin@mailtribune.com.
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