Monday, January 02, 2006

No Kinda Hunter

When I married into my wife's family - because that's what you do when you get married - I knew my father- and brother-in-law loved to hunt. "Loved" here, especially in the case of my father-in-law, is meant in the obsessive sense, much like Dolphin football was/is loved in my family. Obviously, I had sat through plenty of dinner conversations listening to hunting stories before I was married and then into our marriage, and all that was okay.

First holiday season in, at the annual Christmas Eve present exchange, you can guess what my wrapped gifts were. That's correct: a 12-gauge shotgun and hunting camos. Being a sport, I agreed to go and get a Hunting/Fishing license. Still, I steered clear of hunting conversations as best I could and gave non-commital answers to any "When you gonna go hunting with me?" questions. I made it out of my first winter (deer hunting season) without going.

Come spring... I finally got cornered and consented to go turkey hunting with my father- and brother-in-law. At this point, they weren't great turkey hunters (my father-in-law has gotten really good since), and I remember doing a ton of walking up and down my father-in-law's land. Mountain-walking, that is. Well, even though they weren't great, and I el stunko, my father-in-law did manage to run a couple turkeys in my direction. I still remember the turkey waddling across the hill between two trees. For those who don't know, in turkey hunting, you shoot for the birds' heads. As luck would have it, I had a clear shot. Finger on the trigger, I, thinking the shot might get even better or else not really wanting to shoot, one or the other, waited for the turkey to clear a tree. I saw him for a moment after clearing, but then, the gobbler strut down a hill disappearing. When my father-in-law (f-i-l) came down, I was honest enough to say I had a clean shot, but I was hoping for better. Boy oh boy, you'd have thought I let a baby drown. Accused of hunting's unpardonable sin, I left that day with my proverbial tail between my legs, after receiving my tongue-lashing and still debating inwardly as to whether or not I would have ever pulled the trigger.

Well, as it does, the next deer-hunting season rolled around, and once again, especially after receiving more hunter-type gifts, my f-i-l asked me to again go hunting. I consented out of feelings of obligation. Woe unto me.

Here's how it worked. Long before the dairy farmers arise to milk their cows, I was woken up, lethargically dressed in my camos, and tottered, shotgun and sack lunch in hand, out to my f-i-l's truck with four-wheeler in back. Before heading to his land and cabin, my f-i-l stopped by a convenience store where he had ordered some sausage biscuits from the girl on the prior night's shift. My f-i-l is the nicest guy in the world, but he has a vitriolic temper. So when the store didn't have the biscuits, my brother-in-law and I waited outside for fifteen minutes for the argument that ensued between he and the new shift clerk. We drove away biscuit-less. The political discussion that broke out along the way, for me, was only a fraction better than the hunting discussions that filled the rest of the way. Oh, and then the rain and sleet started. When we arrived at the cabin (still before McDonald's had opened on the East Coast a timezone back), several other hunter buddies of my f-i-l had spent the night there. I was treated to conversations about bucks, game, ten-pointers, doe days, turkey, and the big one that got away and NOTHING else. Seriously. And speaking of game, the late December NFL games with Dolphin playoff implications all over them, well, those games I would miss for this. After breakfast, I rode out with my f-i-l on his four wheeler. He drove me to a place called "The Big Rock" where you could "see for miles"... when day broke, that is. Then, telling me he'd pick me up at 10 a.m., he took off.

Five hours. I had to make it five hours. Did I mention it was thirty below? Well, it was below thirty, anyway. And being new to the hunt game, all I wore was my camouflage suit with a turtle neck and tee shirt underneath. Nothing plastic to protect me from the elements. I had none of that. Sitting on a huge rock, in the middle of winter, freezing to death in slush and rain, wet to the bone -- that was me. For a while, I realized the giant rock had an overhang, so I climbed down and sat under it where it was dry. However, the pouring rain slowly started to drip and then run down my rock cover, inching its way toward me. In a quarter of an hour, I had curled up in a fetal position to avoid the ice water. Another quarter hour, and I was drenched again. So little help was the coverage, I marched back to the top of the rock and sat there... in the dark.

I really came face to face with my personal depravity over those first couple of hours. A lot of internal cursing, both of the cuss word variety and the cursing of all things hunt-related. Bitterness. Even hatred flowed in and out of my mind as I shivered and quivered in the slush and cold. Those cinematic heroes that brave the winter cold sprung to mind. I was no hero, quite the opposite, in fact. I swore to myself that I would never, ever go hunting again. Told myself the people who did it were sadistic.

As the day just started to break, I pulled a Jonah and went to the Lord. The prayer didn't stop the rain and sleet, but I did sort of become numb to the world afterward. All thoughts stopped, good or bad -- and I hadn't been having any good ones. I watched dawn and the morning's offering. Next thing I knew, at 10 a.m., true to his word, my f-i-l picked me up.

"See anything?"

"No," I spoke between chattering teeth.

We drove back in, and I figured at least someone would mention how miserable it had been out there as I peeled clothes off of me and tried to hog the lone heater they had in the cabin. All the other guys came back, and once again, I heard the stories of bucks, game, ten-pointers, doe days, turkey, and the big one that got away and nothing else. Who were these people that could do this and love it? I don't think I'll ever know, but I sure felt like a wimp. Probably because, I am one, at least when it comes to the cold.

I've never been back, at least not deer hunting. If I ever went, I realize now, I'm not shooting anything. Nothing against hunters, in fact, they're about the most nature-loving people I know. And I'll eat what they kill, I've got no problem with that. My f-i-l does regret not having me clothed better that day, but that's not his fault. And he has gotten me once or twice more to go turkey hunting with him, and though I carry my shotgun, I won't be shooting anything. Don't know why, but it's just not in me.

But it does seem to be in my children, which is probably why I've put this story to paper. Both kids have gone up on the mountain, and they love it. Carson definitely wants to hunt (when he gets to about twelve), and he has an older cousin who loves it. Davis is feeling it out, but he sure loves to go up on that mountain. For them, it's an adventure; obviously for me, it's not. I know I'll never love it, but maybe I can tolerate it if it's something that thrills them. I won't be the one to take away time that either one of my boys can spend with their grandfather and commune with nature, or whatever it is hunters do. If my kids are loving it (sigh), chances are, I'll break my promise to myself and let myself be dragged out there again. And then, the time will come, though I hate to think about it, when their grandfather can't go anymore.

What then? Can't we just go to the gym and shoot hoops together or throw the football or toss baseballs around or even pass the soccer ball to each other? But if hunting is their thing, what am I to do? Suppose I'll cross the bridge when I come to it, but if anyone has a remedy, be sure to let me know. Thanks. And I appreciate anyone who's read this for letting me vent. This has been cathartic.


10 comments:

codepoke said...

LOL!!!

I have not enjoyed honesty so much in years. Thanks for posting this.

Rich said...

Thanks.

Hey, I actually went to your blog - which I like a lot by the way (I bookmarked it) - and I tried to play the game (AmEx, I think it was) you got from kansas bob's website. I published my responses under your comments... twice, actually. But it never seemed like they were accepted. I figured comments were moderated, but now I'm wondering if they ever went thru at all.

Chances are, I did something wrong. Just let me know if they didn't make it though, and I'll go and try again.

Scot said...

There, but the grace of God, go I.
I feel your pain. Fortunately for me, I've never faced such misery, but I've had tastes of it enough to know what you're talking about. The church I was a member of during high school was a "country" church in which the same talk of hunting would go on endlessly. Being somewhat of a "city boy", I longed for some conversation of anything else. Only on rare occasions would even college football be discussed instead (which is saying something in the South). I look back on that time with not so fond memories.
I married into a "country" family, but by the grace of God, hunting and fishing are not their thing. Cars, however, is. Just replace all that same talk of bucks, does, ten-pointers, etc with crank shafts, shaved heads, gear ratios, horsepower, etc. I knew ahead of time, though. I went to one of my wife's relatives' house one time while we dating to view the go-kart races. They had constructed a large dirt track on the property behind their house and all God's children (men, women, boys, and girls alike) had a homemade go-kart going full tilt. I had no desire to break my neck with these maniacs, talk about bad wrecks, how to make them go faster, but there I was with an open invitation.
While this situation is not nearly as bad and doesn't have any ethical implications, there is the common theme of feeling manly in an uncomfortable situation. It would also, as you elude to, be very tempting to force a basketball in the hands of my sons as the shotgun was shoved into yours. Finding joy in what others find enjoyment in is very difficult. Maybe that's why it is a command in the Bible to both weep with those that weep and rejoice with those that rejoice. With our sons, though, it is imperative that we impart the sense of acceptance for what they enjoy (assuming it is moral) and affirm/endow their own developing manhood.

BTW, I enjoyed the style of the narrative of this story. I'd love to hear more of your worst experiences. 8-)

Rich said...

Scot,

Hilarious go-kart story. Well, funny to me (hopefully in retrospect it is for you); I wouldn't be any better in that situation. I'm about as handy as a fence post, and if I heard the phrase "shaved heads" I'd be dodging the nearest barber with razor clippers.

I get you and agree on accepting what they enjoy. No question. Of course, what I'd like to be saying is, "I get you and agree about forcing a basketball into their hands," but that'd be wrong (although I do think I've done it to some extent - I just have to watch myself).

Thanks for the response and compliment, although I don't know how many "worst experiences" I could bear putting on paper. But you! Watch out what you wish for!

codepoke said...

Rich,

I have moderation OFF, so whatever it was was just causing things not to work. I do have the funny little passwords that you have to enter to post.

Bzzzzt.

Make that "had". If I start having spam problems, I will turn it back on, but why fix a problem I don't have.

Scot said...

Just as a point of information for others, like myself, who raise the hood of a car on a semi-annual basis at best, a "shaved head" in the world of go-kart enthusiasts is an attempt to gain more horsepower out of your engine by milling down the head, thus changing the size of the combustion chamber. I'm not sure of the effect this has on the life of the pistons or the engine life. It may be an oversight by the foolish engineers at Briggs and Stratton.
I could go on, but I'm sure you'd rather hear about the 40 year old former co-worker of mine that had hunted for 15 years without ever killing a deer, yet talked continually about his tactics like covering himself in deer urine and playing tapes at work of deer grunting to familiarize himself with their sound.
But hey, everybody has their own quirks and interests. That's what makes life interesting, you know.

brian said...

You're F-I-L let you go deer hunting with a shotgun? Are you sure he didn't just want to get you out there in the cold? :-)

FWIW, I've only been hunting twice and that was when I was a teenager(long, long ago). Once for rabbit and another for quail. I suppose I could hunt for food if I had to. But to me it's really just an expensive hobby that doesn't pay back what you put into it.

Cheers!

Rich said...

Brian,

Yeah, apparently whatever the shell number/quality/whatever (I have no idea about those things, but there are different numbers for quail, turkey, deer, etc.) that he gave me, it was supposed to be able to pierce a deer. A rifle would have been better, I suppose. However, way back in my youth summer camps, when I took the target practice classes because they were "the cool thing to do," while everyone else went and retrieved their target/bulleye paper the camp used, almost all the other kids came back with shredded paper, especially in the middle, as their personal trophies while if mine had a couple of BB holes on the outside corners, I was lucky. For me, I'd have a better chance hitting anything with a shotgun than a rifle.

Truthfully, I would have traded either the shotgun or a rifle or both for a sheet of plastic to cover me at the time (or, of course, for anything to have gotten me the heck outta there).

And I totally agree with your last sentiment, but like golf, if people like it, I have no problem with them doing it. It just ain't gonna light my fire, to coin a phrase.

Thanks for the comment!

brian said...

Ahhhh... I learned something today. You can use a shotgun for hunting deer. You can tell it's not a subject of expertise for me :-).

Yeah, golf is another one of those too. But like you say, as long as people like it then no big deal. As long as they can pay the monthly minimum on their credit card bill...

BTW, I followed you from over at The Thinklings where I comment sporadically. My wife, Jennifer, comments in the word tag post and a few others so you might better recognize her name.

Rich said...

Yeah! Jennifer! And I've seen you commenting over there as well. Cool! Jennifer was/is an awesome word-tag memer and was one of the friendliest people I met over there. Seems like my favorite Thinkling post has run aground, however. Well, welcome!!!

As long as they can pay the monthly minimum on their credit card bill...

Hopefully, they can pay more than the minimum if they're allowing themselves to drop the forty or fifty bucks or whatever it's costing now to go 18 holes.

--

I think you and me are in the same boat in our knowledge on hunting. And chances are, mine may not grow too much. We'll see what happens with my boys. But if my daughter (7 1/2 mos. now) wants to hunt, well, at that point, I may just have to put my foot down... kidding (sigh).