Saturday, November 26, 2011

Not Exactly "Friends"


When and where I grew up, a person rarely heard the sound of gunfire. In fact, I can only recall a single occasion when I heard it within the county limits. My father was boarding a horse for a friend of his who was an avid hunter. One afternoon, concerned his new horse might be gun-shy, he and my father led the horse into our pasture and the friend fired his pistol into the ground. His horse just stood there, apparently unimpressed, waiting to be released so he could return to grazing. Why shoot into the ground? Well, despite the fact that terrorists are always firing automatic weapons into the air on film, in reality that's not a wise practice because what goes up will inevitably come down, including bullets.

So, that was the only time. Hunters eager for deer or elk had to go up into the mountains to find them and those who sought ducks or pheasant, to eastern Colorado. The fact is, there were laws prohibiting the discharge of firearms near populated areas which, if you think about it, is a wise practice. Every year there are stories in the news about someone mistaking a partner, cow, or dog for deer or moose. How you get a moose from a dog, beats me, but maybe at distance Snoopy looks that big. Anyway, s/he hears a rustling of leaves, the snap of a twig, they turn and squinting through the trees, spy a shadowy figure. The thrill of pursuit coupled with the release of adrenaline takes over and you can guess the rest.

When I relocated from Maine's seacoast, I was informed, "Oh, now and then, you might hear a gunshot or two," since this is fairly open country and Maine law permits shooting on private land. To put it another way, were I so inclined (which I'm not), I could sit comfortably in my lawn chair on the front patio with my father's western-style .30 caliber carbine across my lap and wait for the deer who gobbles up my apples to wander into the crosshairs. Either that, or I could purchase a shotgun on the internet for next to nothing and sneak up on the flock of turkeys that also feed freely on my apples to provide next year's Holiday meals. It would all be perfectly legal and conveniently culturally-sanctioned.

Except for that darned, interfering Super-Ego (Freud's term for moral and personal conscience) of mine. I don't generally shoot at friends unless they really, really, really, piss me off and then I prefer to throw pies at them. I'm joking (even about the pies). Truly, I am. Please, pretty please with maple sugar on it, don't call the FBI ("Honest, Agents Sculley and Mulder, it was only a literary device, you know that from the lines the two of you have to memorize, right?"). Well, while we're not exactly what you'd call "friends" -- I haven't invited him in for coffee or tea with late season apples lately -- I do like seeing Bambi wander through the hayfield, munching freely at will. I also like the turkeys, porcupine, and the other wild critters who seem to think this is their farm and they permit my presence, not the other way around. Maybe I'm softheaded in a hardhearted world, but it seems only reasonable to live in consideration of those who were here long before me and, no doubt, will continue to be once I'm gone.

Now, fair is fair and I don't want anyone to think I have something against my neighbors or anyone else who hunts, because it's not like that at all. True,
I'm still not fully accustomed to being awakened on weekend mornings by what I'm convinced is an M-16 going off within walking distance of my house. If it was 1772, when this community was founded, I'd take my trusty long rifle down from over the fireplace and like any other responsible farmer, parson, or whomever with a family, head for the woods imitating Hawkeye from Last of the Mohicans. But this is 2011 and, like I say, I'd rather not shoot at friends or a reasonable facsimile thereof. As things stand, I'll wear orange as a precaution while cutting firewood or walking the dogs, that's not a problem. It's nearing January, it will all be over soon.


(Creative Commons image and Bambi and Thumper by Jaded Jeremy via Flikr)

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