I’ve been deep in the woods for two months. I have become a friend to squirrels, I hug oaks like I were a photographer for a Sunday supplement for progressive intellectuals, and I have looked death in the eye on several occasions, like this morning when I left a lit cigarette on top of the tractor’s gas tank and went to get another beer from the fridge. The fireworks were so loud that, for a moment, I thought we were still celebrating the Fourth of July. I don’t think I’ll be able to use the tractor again after that, so I won’t be able to stir up the soil for a while, which is what I usually do in a field when I don’t know what I really should be doing. I learned that from the Democrats.
A few months ago, after the confinement, I chose to hide myself away in this wild place, running as far as I could from the coronavirus and election campaigns. Now, after having received formal death threats from several different animals, stung by a wasp, and fallen down a hole leading to the lair of some unknown monster, the coronavirus seems now a minor threat. At least you can neutralize it with hydroalcoholic gel. Not long after arriving here, I got cornered by an angry mountain goat — its scientific name could be something like filius canis impale idiotum — I tried to scare it off with hydroalcoholic gel. The next thing I knew, I had a terrible pain in my back, my head was sunk in the grass, my body stretched out, and I could just see the goat chewing on a bottle of gel in the distance.
For a city dweller and sailor, the forest is a dangerous place. All the precautions that used to protect me at sea don’t work here, especially trying to escape from predators unfurling the sails. I’ve found out that no matter how fast you paddle in front of a lion, it will bite you in the ass anyway. This I learned watching the beautiful Kayleigh McEnany trying to maintain a smile on her face while showing saintly patience, answering a group of leftist journalists. I’ve also discovered that if you try to climb a rock and wait for the tide of animals to go out, the wild boars that were stalking you will ROTFL worse than if they were related to Peppa Pig.
I have learned to predict things simply by observing nature. Now I know that when the cattle huddle together and lie down, it will rain; that when the swallows fly very high, dry days are coming; and that when I have a headache, I have drunk too much whiskey the night before. A biologist told me that crickets are the best weathermen. “It’s easy,” he said, “you just have to count the number of chirps per minute, divide by five and subtract nine. This calculation will give you the exact current temperature.” So now I walk around the countryside with a notebook, pencil, eraser, triangle ruler, protractor, compass, and a scientific calculator and spend the day doing complex calculations while listening to crickets. It’s certainly much more practical than looking at the weather app on my cell phone.
I have also learned a lot by carefully observing the behavior of chickens. Now I know that when they cluck they are going to lay an egg, or they have laid an egg, or they are hungry, or they have just woken up, or they are sleepy, or they are in pain, or they want water, or they have drunk too much, or they feel like singing, or they have sung too much. It’s foolproof. Not since Charles Darwin has there ever been an animal watcher as sagacious as I.
I read in an old book on hunting that some animals, like wild boars, scratch their backs against tree trunks. I immediately decided to go to the vet and have a genetic test to confirm which species I belong to. At first the guy refused to carry out the test, calling me a “phony swine,” but when he heard my first “oink, oink,” he was fascinated, and apologized to me and the Pachamama for ever having doubted my word of honor.
“You’re the first pig with a word of honor I’ve ever known,” he said.
“Oink, dear friend, oink,” I grunted condescendingly.
As for the result of the tests, I will invoke my right as a columnist to keep my medical reports anonymous, but that can wait until after I’ve had my mud bath.
Birds are my true passion. I have been watching them closely since I was a child and find it amazing that they never crash. Give a middle-aged male wings like that and he’ll be on sick leave for over half a year with fractures of varying degrees after trying the Knife Flight, Hammerhead and Flat Spin all during the same flight. It also surprises me how the slender, delicate figure of birds often contrasts with their terrible character. Last week, after seeing two crows fighting in my garden, I couldn’t sleep all night. It was awful. They were trying to poke each other’s eyes out, all for a nasty little worm. Their terrifying squawks sounded like something from a Lovecraftian nightmare. I don’t remember anything quite so violent since the last time I saw two teenage sisters fighting back in the city.
As for the country people, there are two conversations I have with them every day. The first is about how hot it is, so much hotter than it used to be. And the second is about how cold it is, so much colder than it used to be. By observing how they talk to one another I have learned that whatever they say, the polite thing to do is to look at the horizon, squint your eyes, take a breath, and exclaim, “Yes, I do.” A well placed “you betcha” can go a long way here.
But beware: never use it if you’re trying to pick up a female farmer. Yesterday the beautiful blonde waitress in the canteen, the best smile this side of the Mississippi, poured my beer with a frown. After a long silence, visibly irritated, she said to me, “What are you doing looking at the beer like a fool? You haven’t even noticed that I just cut my hair! What’s the matter, does it make me look fat or something?” Dazed and caught in a panic, I dropped the wild card “you betcha” to buy some time, and I’m afraid our love story ended abruptly, unless you take “Damned rat — I hope a boa constrictor swallows you whole” as an original and endearing marriage proposal.
Itxu Díaz is a Spanish journalist, political satirist, and author. He has written nine books on topics as diverse as politics, music, and smart appliances. He is a contributor to the Daily Beast, the Daily Caller, National Review, the American Conservative, The American Spectator, and Diario Las Américas in the United States, and columnist for several Spanish magazines and newspapers. He was also an advisor to the Ministry for Education, Culture and Sports in Spain. Follow him on Twitter at @itxudiaz or visit his website www.itxudiaz.com.
Translated by Joel Dalmau
Illustration by Iñigo Navarro Dávila