© 2009 Albert A Rasch
I’m a curmudgeon. I don’t like anything. Everybody’s in my dang way, and those pesky kids are always under foot. How I manage to get anything done is beyond me.
There’s a fellow, Mr. Ron, who comes over while I’m in my garage; I can’t get anything done while he’s visiting. Miss Nancy likes to check up on my progress with the pirogue, and Miss Mae has two little fair haired ones that are so cute it makes me wince. They beeline right to me when they see me, peppering me with dozens of questions, none related to the previous one. And then there’s Samuel Joshia; I think he’s four months old, and loves Charlie. He bounces up and down in his mother’s arms when he sees him, and they come to visit every time I’m out. Then there’s Jeffery, Joey, Matt, Darrel, and lord knows what all the others’ names are. And to put icing on the cake, there’s an old deaf guy here that drives one of those snazzy black Audis. He listens to talk radio on his car stereo system so loud, that I can’t hear the table saw above it.
Funny thing is that for a curmudgeon, I sure am tolerant of their visits.
I guess it's not that bad really.
Jeffery actually helps me out. Well as best a seven year old can. In return I’ve taught him how to use a Daisy Red Rider, and the fundamentals of safety. Those two itty bitty cutie pies, Sean and Tessa, can identify red rat, black racer, and cottonmouth snakes now. So can most of the other children; they have all had an opportunity to look at them and actually study them up close. The parents, meddlesome as they are, have learned the importance of biodiversity during these impromptu natural history classes. I can’t tell you how many Moms have been dragged over by a child to see a one of those pesky cottonmouths. I don’t get the “Why don’t you kill them?” question too often anymore. I think the kids tell them why it’s important to protect and safeguard them.
Mr. Deaf Audi Guy drove by a couple of days ago with a half flat tire. I whistled at him, and lo and behold he heard me. I had him back up the Audi close to my shop so I could fill his tire. While waiting for me to assemble my compressor, he noticed the latest cottonmouth in a bucket. I’m not going to bore you with the whole of the conversation, but it eventually got to firearms and hunting. He told me he didn’t like guns, and didn’t understand why anyone would want to shoot an animal.
“You see all this nature here,” I started waving a wrench around me, narrowly missing his all to close head. “I'm responsible for all of it. From that huge live oak over there, to this little ornery fellow here, every last bit. Just like I stopped you, and I’m taking the time to help you out, I take the time to do something I love, hunting. I’m the forester, guardian, and warden of every patch of woods, fields, or beach I walk on. I’m an enforcer when need be, a steward, and an educator. Whether it's an orphaned bird, a lost snake, or in the case of that danged invasive Brazilian pepper tree which I mercilessly hack and kill, I do what needs to be done.”
He understood that part, but then he asked, ”If you're its protector, why kill anything?”
Stealing Ortega Y Gasset I answered, “I kill in order to hunt. It’s not the act of killing I love, that is actually somewhat sad; it is everything that precedes it, and for that matter what follows, that is most important. The death of the animal is a very small, but important part of the hunt. But it’s not the totality of it.” I kept on. "Think of me as part of the equation. Lions do their part, raccoons theirs, even the cottonmouth here does his. I'm just part of it. You don't take offense at the fox taking a turkey do you? Well I am just another member of that circle."
I continued, “Not only am I part of a cycle that has existed since the first form of life came to be, but I add to it by the fact that I have memories. The sore muscles, the cold or heat, the view, the scent of the game, the sweat, the frozen breath, the warm blood, every one of those things are indelibly engraved in my memories. A worn buck deer torn apart by a desperately hungry wolf pack is never remembered, the one I bring home, or not, will live forever in my memory. You can’t buy that for the price of a movie ticket.”
I paused to let that sink in. Then I added, “I live more during the hunt, any hunt, than most people do in their entire lives.”
I saw him look around; really look around. He noticed, maybe for the first time, the buzzards flying by overhead. There was a squirrel in the median between two parking areas. He reached for the pack of smokes in his breast pocket, they looked like Lucky Strikes, thought about it, and pushed them back down. There was an odd look in his face.
I finished filling his tire. There was a nail in it. I got up and grabbed a yellow wax lumber crayon from the tool box.
As I was marking his tire so the repair guy could find it easy, he offered me a few bucks. I declined; not that I couldn't use them mind you. He was trying to put it in my pocket, but I said, “Look, I did it because it’s the right thing to do. No other reason.” As an after thought I added, “That’s why I hunt; because it’s the right thing to do.”
He got the message. Then he went to his car, started it, and thanked me for helping him out. He rolled forward a few feet, stopped and reversed. I stopped coiling the air hose, and turned to him.
He leaned out the window. “What’s your name anyway?”
“It’s Albert, sir.”
“It’s been a real pleasure. Thanks again.” With that he drove off.
I thought to myself, “Another convert.” I don’t care if they’re young or old, man or woman, Black, White, Asian, or Rainbow coalition, I talk to them all…
Because it is the right thing to do.
My hands were all dirty and greasy from fiddling with the tire.
I see red headed Jeffry coming down the street, fishing pole in hand. I reach for the hand cleaner.
I suppose fixing the table saw can wait until later.
Albert A Rasch
The Hunt Continues...