Louis and Mary Leakey discovered some early human ancestors in Tanzania, Africa’s Olduvai Gorge in 1959. Donald Johanson discovered who may be our original grandmother in Ethiopia’s Great Rift Valley in 1974. He named her Lucy because he was a Beatles fan and listened to the song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” right after his discovery. It may be uncharitable to Johanson and paleontology to point out many believe the song was a paean to LSD. On the other hand, those who question Lucy’s bona fides may find solace in this theory.
At the opposite end of those Doubting Thomas’ is the atheistic biologist Richard Dawkins from the University of Oxford who pushed human origins back to as much as five million years ago and posited his meme theory. Dawkins suggests that it is our replicating genes that determine who and what we are and why we behave as we do. One of his famous analogies to explain the evolution of human biology and behavior is to suggest we envision a long line of mothers holding hands all the way back to Lucy. And, as for me, my experiences with my mother and my wife, Peg, convince me there is some credence to the science of the Leakeys, Johanson and Dawkins.
Let’s envision Lucy, our grandmother, in her African cave while our mythical grandfather, call him Adam, goes out to hunt a mastodon for dinner. Adam is struggling with how to trick the massive beast to stampede over a cliff, but Lucy is back home planning for Adam’s return. After Lucy rearranges the lodge pole front door for the tenth time, she surveys the cave’s interior. She is dissatisfied with the position of the bearskin rug she had Adam move just yesterday. She makes a mental note to have Adam shake out the bearskin and figure out a way to attach it to the granite wall of the cave.
Next, Lucy inventories the two stone cooking utensils that Adam carved out for her last week and decides she must have another small one for their new baby’s meals. Lucy switches the positions of the two vessels for the third time. They look better to her now. Lucy gives the baby a bath in the stream running in front of their cave and realizes with only a few days of work with his stone hoe Adam could divert water right to their cave. Lucy resolves to mention her idea to Adam over a handful of fermenting blackberries when he returns.
Meanwhile Adam is full of a sense of accomplishment because he has skinned the mastodon and is hauling the hide, one ivory tusk and a huge chunk of meat back for Lucy to admire. Adam assumes his work is done for a week or two because Lucy will need to tan the hide, process the meat and make sewing needles from the tusk as she cooks dinner and nurses the baby.
Gentle Reader, you may wonder, or you may not care, why we are discussing the lives of Lucy, Adam and baby from thousands of years ago. Well, I will tell you. About three years ago Peg and I moved into our cabin on the prairie. By unspoken agreement Peg took over all space but my barn. This worked out fine until over the two years of COVID Peg had time to organize every inch of her Girl Cave, the Bunkhouse, the Cabin and even the neutral territory of our garage. Last week spring truly arrived and Peg turned her gaze on my barn. It has not been pretty.
As long as she did not have to look at my laissez-faire system of “if it ain’t in my way, why worry about it”, well, she didn’t worry herself with it. But once she opened the overhead doors and found the mother lode of “my stuff”, she focused her female/Lucy type DNA upon my space. It reminded me of when my sainted mother would venture into my room on a Saturday morning and turn it upside down. Peg and Mom and Lucy and all wives and mothers in between have spent about two million years of two X chromosomal fixation with organization of sons’ and husbands’ behavior. I guess my three-year barn reprieve is over.