IVP - Addenda & Errata - Of Camp Robbers, Chips and Commas: A Morality Tale

January 26, 2009

Of Camp Robbers, Chips and Commas: A Morality Tale

They were 8 Grain Crisps: advertised as “all natural,” “no trans fat” 8-grain (whole white and yellow corn, whole brown rice, whole oats, spelt, barley, buckwheat, millet plus black sesame seeds, golden flax seeds and quinoa) and only “slightly seasoned with sea salt.” It was practically a birdie smorgasbord of seeds from a Birkenstock bird-seed store. It’s not like I was offering Perisoreus Canadensis (or Gray Jay) a fat-soaked Frito! And nothing like the pieces of Krusteaz pancake that his kin had robbed from my camp frying pan years ago.

It didn’t matter. I got the admonition. And the sermon. Delivered in earnest. The admonition I could take. In essence, “It is forbidden to feed animals within a national park.” Full stop. I understand. I had a momentary lapse in recalling where I was. The park ranger was doing his job. But now he perceived a “teaching moment.” And so we had the sermon—two points, as I recall (they can’t digest the food, and they won’t be wild anymore if we feed them)—which was difficult to swallow, let alone digest. Not least because of its clincher: “they won’t be wild anymore.”

Now, at Tipsoo Lake we were something less than a few hundred yards within the Mount Rainier National Park boundary—as the bird flies, that is. These birds know nothing of that boundary and brazenly indulge their taste for human food on either side of that line. I could swear this bird’s first cousin was angling for my lunch last winter at the top of the chair lift at Crystal Mountain, scarcely a cracker toss from the park boundary. In fact, it seems to be in their very nature to pilfer human food—aggressively! Thus, well, the moniker Camp Robber. And generations upon generations of their kind have robbed camps and picnics in the mountains of the Northwest, living and procreating in cheerful disregard of the park service’s estimate of their delicate digestive tracts.

But whoa! This is an editorial blog. So I must fetch an editorial moral from this tale. In short, I am the ranger.

The incident reminds me that sometimes it’s best to give a friendly “please don’t” or “we don’t do it that way around here” rather than attempt a sanctimonious rationale. Besides, unless our rationales are compelling to others, we erode our credibility. And often enough, even compelling rationales are best kept to ourselves. They can be hard to endure. And these days they might be fodder for blogging!

Take the serial comma, for example: At IVP it is forbidden to employ the “Oxford comma,” despite its highfalutin pedigree (which you’d think we’d warm to). It’s a choice we’ve made, or someone made, back when. Good arguments can be made for and against our practice. But as Lynne Truss has warned in Eats, Shoots & Leaves, it’s best not to get in the midst of this debate when drink has been taken. No, this is what we do. Period. (Or maybe comma.) And that’s that.

Now I’ll admit it. I wanted to tell this young ranger that I’d been hiking these trails since well before he was born “back east” in Connecticut or Indiana or wherever. That I cared at least as much about the sanctity of Mount Rainier National Park as he did. But I resisted. (It would have mortified my wife).

As we walked around the little lake, it seemed like the ranger was keeping his eye on us. After all, people who feed Camp Robbers are likely to laze in the Lupine or pluck the Paintbrush. As you might know, it is (for good reasons) also forbidden to disturb the flora in a national park. On the editorial register, this is equivalent to the dark sin of plagiarism. You never know where scorn for comma rules might lead.

Posted by Dan Reid at January 26, 2009 1:08 PM Bookmark and Share

Comments are closed for this entry.

Get Email Updates

You'll get an email whenever a new entry is posted to Addenda & Errata

Subscribe to Feeds

Got a Book Idea?

Please follow our submissions guidelines. We cannot respond to book proposals or inquiries within the context of this blog.