Thursday, January 31, 2008


We have a little natural stream that runs through our yard, and ever since we have lived here, I have been the troll under the bridge, harassing the neighbor kids who come to fish in it. It's not that I don't want them to play in the stream; I would be fine with that, if that was all there was to it, but the nature of little boys and creeks I know firsthand from my own brothers. They start out playing and then discover the aquatic life, and rarely are they cut from the cloth of naturalists; they invariably want to catch and imprison the poor little crayfish and salamanders. I watched scores of turtles, crayfish, and salamanders die in buckets, thanks to my brothers.

So with this stream, or at least, my own little part of this stream, I have been vigilant in protecting the little creatures who make up its delicate little ecosystem. This past summer we had so many different kinds of snakes, and toads, crayfish, and salamanders living in it, and my boys, having been schooled in proper ettiquette of playing in Mommy's Creek, loved playing in it for hours at a time.

Yesterday the boys stayed home from school, mostly because of stuffed up heads, so they went out to play in the creek. A little while later, they came in and told me that they had found several dead salamanders and crayfish, and that the water was cloudy, and a bit bubbly. I went out to look for myself and was shocked. I found at least two dozen little red salamanders dead in our section of the creek, and almost as many little crayfish. The water wasn't particularly cloudy at this point, but it might have been when they were down in it earlier.

We got out and headed around the block, to another section of the same creek, to ascertain the extent of the damage. It was the same story the whole way down; more little salamanders, and more crayfish, dead, and not a fish to be seen. What was going on? I wondered. It had just rained the night before, so why all the little dead animals? I wondered if someone had drained something toxic into the water upstream.

It wouldn't be the first time. The last time I had found gasoline in the water, I called the local EPA people, who came out and basically told they could do nothing, without concrete evidence that pointed to a specific individual. Nice to see my tax dollars at work, promoting apathy.

When we got back home, we took one more look in our creek to see if there were any creatures who had survived. We found one huge old crayfish, about half the size of a lobster, who was still trying to hang on. We took him in the house and set him up in a big bowl of freshwater aquarium water and gravel, hoping the cleaner water might revive him. The Bohemian named him "Cray" and was quite upset about the mass carnage, but was holding it together for Cray's sake.

Today, after school we came home and checked on Cray, who, sadly, did not manage to revive from whatever it was that poisoned him. When my husband got home, we buried Cray in a little grave in the backyard (dug by my little Bohemian, replete with headstone), and said a few words. Then my youngest son and I hugged each other and cried; for Cray, and for all of the little salamanders and crayfish whose lives were swept away by stupid, thoughtless people. An entire little ecosystem, destroyed by people who never even considered they might be there, much less, might be crucial to the health of our little corner of this world.

There are no happy thoughts to end this with - people are THE scourge and plague of this beautiful planet. I read that the majority of amphibians,having lived on earth for 350 million years, are rapidly disappearing, thanks to people, and their insistence on developing every square inch of the planet, leaving nothing for any other species to inhabit.

If this upsets you, think about what you put on your lawn to make it nice and green; fertilizer is a number 1 source of pollution in streams. Where do you rinse your grease and oil from your driveway to? How many chemicals do you spray around your house, never considering the impact it makes on your tiny, but equally, if not more so, crucial neighbors?


flutter said...

This made me so incredibly sad

liv said...

awful. we have a stream in our front yard and try to be mindful of what we do. it changes things when it's right in front of you, huh?

Maggie said...

God. This sucks ass.

(But you are raising your kids very, very well. So that's something.)

jennifer h said...

I'm sad for all the little creatures that died, and that your boys had to see this happen in their corner of the world. We're all guilty of some sort of carelessness, but some people just don't think at all.

I hope your stream comes back to life.

Chanda (aka Bea) said...

As sad and maddening as this is, maybe this experience, along with your continued guidance, will create two naturalists who may one day do something to save their corner of the world.

we_be_toys said...

Thanks to all of you for your kind words and support - I've been brooding over this since we saw it.

Flutter - me too, babe - I cried at the funeral of a crayfish, if that tells you anything.

Liv - it sure does change how you look at it;the ways we just thoughtlessly pollute. Glad you're also a steward of a little stream -you know how I feel!

Maggie - You summed it up perfectly - it does suck ass - no better way to say it. (though I had a twinge of conscience about exposing the kids to the full extent of the damage.)

Jennifer h - I'm hoping its able to make a comeback too. We'll be watching it...

Chanda - As bad as I felt letting them see this, I did feel it might make a better impact on them than just saying "don't pollute". now they know first-hand why its so bad.

slouching mom said...

Oh. That just breaks my heart.

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