This is the latest installment covering my extended trip to Argentina and South America to fly fish. One of the wonderful things about fishing is the camaraderie you potentially experience with other fishermen you meet in the lodge. There is an intrinsic “Zen” to the sport of fly fishing that tends to draw like-minded people. During the first phase of my trip to Argentina and South America I had hit the “lodge lottery”. Not only are the PRG facilities and staff terrific, but I was lucky enough to fish with a group of fun and compatible guys. “Star” and the Hollywood lawyers and I were well aligned politically, so there was always good natured agreement during dinner time conversation. This was a relief, as I have been in other lodge situations where the personalities were not so compatible, which can really detract from your trip.
A couple days before I was scheduled to leave the lodge, Star and the Hollywood boys left to go home, and a new group moved in. There were several women in the group, and I learned they were in a women’s fishing club that frequently came to fish with PRG. They were all attractive, personable, in-shape women in their 60’s and 70’s, and they had just finished fishing a few days at PRG’s northern operations. The guides told me they had very solid fishing skills.
The trouble began the first night at dinner, when I was seated between two of the new guests, both women from Texas whose husbands worked in…..you guessed it…the oil and gas industry.
Now a caveat here…. I have nothing against Texas or the oil and gas industry. OK – maybe that’s not quite true. But I do understand the need for oil and gas. At least some oil and gas. And as far as needing Texas, well, I have to think about that one.
In any case we were all talking about our home towns as you tend to do in these situations, and I was giving a bit of a verbal tour of Portland, Oregon, largely heralded as the “greenest city” in the country.
“Do you have electric cars there”, one of the women asked.
“Yep, quite a few”, I answered proudly. “Portland is huge hub for green energy development, so we also have major solar and wind power installations, and many of the green companies have their headquarters there”, I continued.
I had not considered the fact that there are people that are actually pro-pollution, so I was surprised when one of the women said “Aghhh, electric cars….I hate them. They are so ugly”.
“Talk about ugly”, the other woman said, “I think windmills and solar panels are ugly”, she said with a disgusted look on her face.
“Really”, I said surprised. “What do you prefer, refineries?”
Both women beamed. “I love refineries”, one of them said earnestly. “Have you ever driven by one at night? I love to see them lit up. I think they are beautiful.” Her friend nodded in agreement as if we were discussing a new grandchild. “We don’t need all that green stuff”, she said. “There is enough oil and gas to last us a thousand years, if that Obama would just let us drill.” She spit out “that Obama” as if she was referring to a fungus one might develop between their toes from wearing damp waders too long.
This should have been my signal to politely leave the table, but I had never actually been with people that thought refineries were attractive and were openly pro-pollution. Growing up in Billings, Montana, a city anchored on all sides by filthy refineries spewing out noxious fumes all day long that frequently left the town smelling like a late-night fart, the words “beautiful” and “refinery” were never used in the same sentence. I pointed out to the Texans that I had grown up in a refinery town. I told them how last year an Exxon pipeline in Billings had burst under the Yellowstone River, polluting Montana’s pristine waterways with oil slicks that spread for a hundred miles. I explained how my uncle had worked in the refinery for 30 years, and how I suspected that he had contracted the cancer that killed him from working in the noxious environment. They were unmoved. “Well, I think they are pretty”, one of the women repeated, “and besides, those ugly windmills kill birds”.
Later in the trip in Chile I would have a similar encounter with another lodge guest. At my first evening in Rio Cincos Lodge I sat down to dinner shortly after arriving to meet the other lodge guests. We were just at the salad course when the two men to my right began arguing. One of the gentlemen was a proud member of the Tea Party, and was taking the other guest to task for his more liberal leanings. I seldom get the opportunity to really talk to a Tea Party member, so I had to ask the big questions…
“Do you believe in Global Warming”, I inquired.
Tea Party man looked at me with steely eyes and delivered the stock answer. “I think there might be something happening in the environment, but I don’t believe that people have anything to do with it. It’s just cyclical”.
“Hmmm. So you don’t think that covering the earth with billions of people that cut down the trees, cover the ground with pavement so water can’t circulate into the system, and rip fossil fuels out of the earth to burn them and pump smoke into the sky could possibly lead to climate change”, I asked.
No answer from steely eyes, but he is starting to look pissed. I kept going.
“What if you’re wrong”, I asked. “And I guess what I really don’t understand”, I continued, “even if you don’t think global warming is real, why wouldn’t you want to move on to green energy sources that don’t pump garbage into the atmosphere and would free us from foreign oil. Plus, you would actually create an entirely new economy that could really lead to job growth – something even bigger than the internet boom. You’re obviously a guy that likes the outdoors, otherwise you wouldn’t be here. Don’t you prefer clean air and water?”
Tea Party dude now just looks confused and annoyed and didn’t answer.
“How about evolution”, I asked. “What’s your position on that equally controversial subject?”
This time he feels compelled to respond. “I believe in God. That’s it”, he says matter-of-factly. He then gets up and leaves the table.
And then I mysteriously felt a little bad. Even though I obviously didn’t agree with Tea Party Dude’s politics, I thought he actually maintained “lodge decorum” by walking away before the situation elevated. Perhaps I was overly aggressive. The last place we need politics is in the fishing lodge.