Have you ever wondered what it must feel like to be very well known? Maybe you already are, so you do know. Congratulations! I wonder if being famous is as fun as it appears to be. An awful lot of people have attained fame over the years of their lives, some good, some not so good. The fame, or really renown, I want to write about in this column today is the not-so-good kind.
I’m not referring to the obvious infamous folks in history; your Hitlers, your Genghis Khans, your Joan Crawfords, your Ivan the Impalers, your Ma Barkers, your Captain Hooks. I’m thinking today about the “ooops” kinds of famous people, the unintentional incompetents, the ones who made a huge negative impact on our nation, maybe the world, because of a simple but well-meant mistake. I'm talking about the “guys who brought it over;” the people who brought something to America they thought would be good for the country that would help get rid of something they thought was bad for the country. Did you get that? I’m not sure I did, but anyway...
Take your kudzu. Kudzu is a beautiful, rich, dark green ground (and everything else) cover that’s literally begun to carpet the world. A vine, it came to Japan by way of China (or maybe that was the other way around) and then was brought to the USA first for forage and fodder, eventually to be used decoratively in American gardens. But it somehow it got loose and has now spread to absolutely everywhere, like an endless, ever-widening green stain. Much of the south is now blanketed with the stuff and it’s slowly choking trees and everything else in its path. I’m pretty sure it’s kudzu’s goal to turn the earth into one huge green ball, and it seems to be working.
The good news is I recently read that an insect has been found that might kill the kudzu and that’s where another ooops might come in; what else will that insect kill? Do we know? We won’t until it’s gone and done it. The guy who brought the kudzu over is already notorious now, although I don’t think anyone actually knows his name, which is probably a really good thing because he’d be in very big trouble, especially from agriculturists and arborists and weekend gardeners. The unknown guy who’s bringing those kudzu-killing bugs over will make his mark on the world too, especially once they finish dining on the last kudzu leaf, and still famished and multiplying speedily, begin to chomp everything else that’s green and growing, quite soon turning entire continents into deserts or slabs of bare rock.
Rabbits were introduced to Australia over a hundred years ago because “there were none,” and boy, are the Aussies sorry. In short order, there were literally billions of those adorable little long-eared fuzzballs, and they stripped away thousands of acres of vegetation. (Hey! Maybe they’d enjoy a gigantically huge kudzu salad!) Then worst of all, those pesky bunnies turned into kangaroos, right?
But come on, even back then, didn’t people know what rabbits like to do best? It seems hard to believe they didn’t. Rabbits are not shy and they never care at all if anyone’s watching, and in fact, I think they maybe like it better when they do. But there you have it; whoever brought the first pair of cute little boy and girl bunrabs to the Land Down Under has achieved his immortality, if immortality is actually granted to anonymous people, and I sure think it is.
Foreign fish have been introduced to lakes and rivers to kill off existing fish that were causing problems, only to have the imported fish thrive so well they’ve grown to where they can now chomp the hind legs off a rhinoceros in a couple of casual nips, making recreational swimming hazardous at best.
Bugs have been imported from other countries to kill bad bugs here, which they’ve done well, but have multiplied themselves to such a degree they’ve blocked out the sun as they’ve gone swooping about looking for new kinds of bugs to eat. Then the birds got into the act and suddenly found themselves gorged with so much bug au jus they began to multiply at a too rapid speed, and they grew and grew to where eventually people in some areas of mainland USA have begun noticing their family pets aren’t coming home when they’re called. Ever. That guy with the original jar of savior bugs has caused a major oooops and he’s really famous, even if everyone only calls him “that guy who brought those @#$&*! bugs over here.”
I guess it’s hard to try to nail all the possible ramifications of the imported do-good things people have put into America to save America. Even the most far-sighted of us can’t imagine the havoc we can wreak when, with every good intention, we introduce this thing to kill that thing, not realizing that this thing often then goes on to kill a whole lot more other things. Good things. Things we like.
And as to being famous, I guess I wouldn’t mind being that, although I’d prefer to be famous for doing something noble, like curing a famous disease or inventing a diet pill that really does “burn up every drop of fat you eat and flushes it away by 8 AM,” or writing the most famous book ever written followed by the most famous movie ever made starring me of course, or even inventing a toaster oven that actually works. But I don’t want fame badly enough to settle for being one of those oooops famous people. I would want my name mentioned through future history in hushed, reverent tones as “that remarkable, beautiful and glorious woman who…….” (you fill in the blank.) And about those poor guys who made those awful and colossal mistakes and got their fame? Quite simply put, it all boils down to one small question; who knew?