“The Tamarisk Hunter” is a short story set in a near future climate apocalypse world somewhere in the southwest United States. The story follows Lolo who is naturally a tamarisk hunter. Before reading this story the image that I had in my mind of a tamarisk was some kind of mythical beast, but I quickly learned of my mistake from reading on and instead a tamarisk is a type of tree. The key feature of the Tamarisk in this story is its water consumption. To quote the leading line: “A big Tamarisk can suck 73,000 gallons of river water a year.”. This is relevant because 1. there is an incredibly persistent drought (Big Daddy Drought) and 2. California has rights to all of the water flowing through the Colorado river. This means that every gallon sucked up by a Tamarisk is a gallon the state of California loses. Because of this, bounties are paid to anyone who can show proof they have removed a tamarisk tree from the Colorado river bank.
The conflict of this story comes from the fact that Lolo is not an honest tamarisk hunter. Instead of simply removing the tamarisk, he carefully finds places to replant the trees so that he has more to harvest later to earn more bounty. This is a big deal in the story because he is effectively stealing water from California, but it is also worth noting that tamarisk trees are an invasive species to the United States and cause considerable harm to the ecosystem (discovermoab.com). The oversight of this information is not particularly surprising considering the attitude toward “enviros” who want to give water to the plants and animals when there isn’t enough for humans. It seems that Lolo feels guilt about what he is doing, but it is not tied to damage toward the ecosystem. Lolo’s guilt lies in his dishonesty to his wife Annie.
Everything that happens in the story feels as if it’s setting up Lolo to get caught by BuRec (Bureau of Reclamation?) for his tamarisk crimes and sent to do manual labor to repay the fortune in water he has stolen. This continues up until the last moment in which he discovers the big scary government men (which he is prepared to murder in cold blood) were simply here to tell him that BuRec is not paying bounties anymore. Instead they are basically shutting down the entire area and sealing the river with carbon fiber to prevent evaporation. Lolo’s crimes are meaningless, not only to him, but in an ecological sense as well. The impact of planting some more invasive species pails in comparison to completely sealing off the water supply to an entire ecosystem. The message that I gather from this story is that in general, systematic harm is much more impactful than individual.
Also worth noting that in my attempt to learn what a tamarisk is I discovered the biblical connection. Tamarisks trees are native to the middle east and are mentioned multiple times in the bible. I was curious to learn more about this and I expect that there may have been some sort of juxtaposition surrounding the symbolism of the tree in the bible versus in this story. I however did not feel I had the bandwidth to look into this any further tonight, but hopefully I’ll find something about it before next class.