Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was idly surfing the teevee last evening when he stumbled upon PBS’s “Nova” program. I used to watch this when I was a nerdy kid, but hadn’t seen it for many, many years.

The subject of this particular episode was footprints, both human and animal, that have been discovered in the desert around White Sands, New Mexico. The prints date back to the last Ice Age, 13- to 15,000 years ago when the area held a vast lake with lots of muddy margins, and include mastodon, native camel, and giant sloth. From the very beginning, the program asked why these prehistoric species all vanished and whether Man had anything to do with it.

The first part of the program proved surprisingly informative. Some footprint-archeologist Johnny wandered about, pointing at various different sets of tracks and trying to piece together the movements they might have represented, including an apparent encounter or near-encounter between a human and a sloth.

But then, the program just couldn’t resist. On stage appeared a Pueblo woman and a fellah who claimed to be Choctaw, although I had very deep doubts. (The Choctaw were native to the Southeast anyway.) They started gassing on about their heritage, and the fellah went so far as to say, “These tracks prove that my peoples have been here since time immemorial!”

No, buddy, they prove that humans were at that spot 15,000 years ago. In historickal terms, that’s a blink of an eye. Man simply is not indigenous to the Western Hemisphere.

Then the narrator took up with, “When Europeans first arrived in the Americas, they…..”

That’s when I turned it off. I know a trap when I smell one.

However, I never did learn whether the program would go so far as to link prehistoric animal extinction to human activity, a position which I would think would trip all sorts of outrage alarums these days, or whether it somehow managed to make it all Columbus’s fault after all. (I honestly don’t know if there’s a link, as I’ve never actually studied the matter. From the comfort of my armchair, I’m inclined to think hunting might have been a contributing factor but perhaps not a decisive one.)