Sunday, July 29, 2018

Ptomaine Poisoning

Survival of the Pfittest
Ptomaine Poisoning
Pfrailty of Idiocy
By Stephen L. Wilmeth

            The worst thing about rattlesnakes is hearing them rattle.
            I’d rather wade right in and seek to end a confrontation than watch them rear up in that Sherman Tank fashion and hear them rattle. There is just something about a snake rattling that is far worse than any other grating stimuli. It gives me the willies.
            It is interesting to hear the theory that rattlers tend to rattle less than they used to. It makes sense. Rattle once and you get your head cut off has some matter of fact consequences.
            “Hey, wait, I take it back!”
            But, I agree. I seldom hear a snake rattle anymore and I don’t think it is just my diminished hearing. Sure, there are the times when it is just me. Several years ago, Leonard and I were riding side by side going out through Magdalena Gap when he asked me if I had heard “that”.
            “Hear what?” was my response.
            “That,” he said as he was stepping off gathering his rope for the quickest and most dependable equalizer as he went.
            I had ridden within inches of a coiled snake and never heard or saw a thing.
            Another day BJ and I were looking at the just repaired trough at Electric Windmill when he asked, “Did you hear that?”
            “Hear what?” was my response.
            “That,” he said as he drove my shovel into the only bush that was growing on the apron around the trough. Reaching down he drug out a snake that was one of those that can be compared to the same diameter of your arm.
            “Jimmenee, crickets (or something similar)!” was offered knowing that we had both been standing there for at least a minute with that monster just inches between us.
            Yes, those encounters were diminished ears, but, seemingly, there are just too many incidents in recent years when even young ears fail to hear a thing which makes one think there is a degree of natural selection taking place.
            The lesson must be that rattling without an advantage and reduced hearing both are not the best thing for your health.
            Ptomaine Poisoning
            How many times did you hear your grandmother tell you that if you ate “that” you would surely get ptomaine poisoning? In fact, ptomaine poisoning was a leading cause of death according to certain elders. The threat was everywhere.
            According to my dad if you ate Aunt Izzie’s chop suey you’d surely get ptomaine poisoning. Canned chile was a huge threat, too.
            “You’ve got to cook that or we’ll all wind up with ptomaine poisoning,” we heard many times from Aunt Mary.
            It was always worse in the mountains where any meat packed in started to get rank going into the second week. I can remember one time at White Creek watching Gerald Gates going through the meat using his nose to determine the order of ingestion.
            “Oooh, we’ve got to cook that today or we’ll all have ptomaine poisoning,” was one obvious, putrid sampling.
            “Leave ‘er in there another day or so and it’ll be so tender you can cut it with a spoon,” was George Hightower’s booming counter.
            Perhaps, experiences like that illustrate why most cowboys prefer that meat be cooked. In fact, just maybe it was their predecessors that took the original arrows with encounters with that deadly vector. It could well be those older timers that didn’t cook anything enough to kill whatever caused ptomaine poisoning didn’t make it. Their pfate was like the lowly rattler. They didn’t live long enough to regenerate anything. On the other hand, those that did cook something enough to make it safe eventually begot genetic phenotypes that universally demonstrate it just makes sense to cook the moo out of everything.
            Pfrailty of Idiocy
            The Westerner started this.
            He posted the modern version of those old threats by bringing up ptomaine poisoning brought on by raw turkeys and McDonald’s salad. He might as well have added another round of E. coli hamburger danger suggesting that it is the cow that, according to the CDC, is poisoning vulnerable progressive patrons and children in 26 states.
            Nana, Grandma, Aunt Mary, and Minnie would have all said, “Cook it!”
            They would never have dreamed somebody would be idiot enough to lick a raw, naked turkey before it was greased and put in the oven. The same thing could not have been fathomed with raw hamburger and the threat of E. coli.
            “Cook it, then wash your hands, and wash them good!”
            Salads are the most vulnerable for obvious reasons. Their fresh ingredients slated for eventual consumption normally escape the most important step of food safety, cooking. The track record speaks for itself. Whether it is Romaine lettuce in Arizona, cantaloupes in Colorado, or spinach from the California coast, the greatest threats come from those ingredients that escape a path to market that sidesteps risk reduction of microbial presence.
            A whole segment of society won’t like the fact that organic products are by far the worst culprits. Ask any inspector in California which they prefer to eat without cooking, organic raisins or fumigated? How about organic figs versus fumigated?
            The point becomes proper precautions are always the best policy. Organic is certainly wonderful especially if you live through the experience, but, remember, that is the risk you take compared with science-based alternatives.
            You’ve just never been told.
            Survival of the Pfittest
            So, how ‘bout the latest rattlesnake?
Yesterday morning we were headed to our fence job and stretched out on the road in the South Mesa Pasture was a rattlesnake. I pulled up and ptipped ptoed back past it without seeing it … it never rattled!

            Stephen L. Wilmeth is a rancher from southern New Mexico. “There is nothing better than a Calymurna fig picked ripe off the tree, but you will also be eating resident protein in the form of a host of microbial hitchhikers, too.”

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