Friday, December 07, 2012
Don't know if it's still what it was, but it seems that boys who grew up in Wisconsin--and even some girls--have no choice when it comes to football teams. If you don't love the Packers, you really can't draw breath.
And it's that way with hunting too. My Badger-land childhood was idyllic. I spent untold hours tramping through lakeshore woods and fields, toting guns. Once out in the wild we hitched a record player up to a car battery in order to play a mad chorus of crowing in an attempt to draw and shoot crows, who obviously thought less of our silliness than we did and simply didn't show. I've sat for hours on a Lake Michigan beach, decoys out in the water, thousands upon thousands of ducks flying by way out of the range of our shotguns. I'd come home with nothing but a cold and loved every minute of it.
But Thoreau says--and I think he's right--that while every boy ought to go hunting, every man ought to grow out of it. It's a creed I've lived with, not by, for almost all of my adult life. Once, when I wanted my son to share some of the great moments of my own childhood, I bought a shotgun. But it wasn't the same. For years that thing stood in my basement, unused.
I bought a digital camera instead, and I've been catching dawns ever since, loving that too because what I loved about hunting was just being out there. I'm sure enough about the human condition to say that if I'm not lugging a gun--or a camera --I simply wouldn't be "out there" taking a walk.
I had a ball hunting South Dakota pheasants about a month ago. I didn't think I'd be able to hit the side of a barn with a shovel full of sand, but when a couple of skeet exploded almost miraculously off the end of the shotgun I borrowed from a friend, I told myself I was still a man. That weekend I went out with real hunters and real guides to places where there were more pheasants I'd ever seen--hundreds of them. I'm not making this up. And when all the shouting and shooting died, we had dozens and dozens in the back of the pickup, and I, even I, had two. Maybe with a little help.
The guys I was with weren't high on taking 'em home. "The first year I went I came home with some," one guy told me,"--but never again."
"They're fine--just taste a little wild."
"Maybe the best way to eat 'em is cut up on fajitas."
"You've got to slow-cook 'em for three weeks." Guffaw, guffaw.
Well, I got news. My wife and I had one of them last night, and it was great. Okay, we slow-cooked it for hours; okay, the mushroomy broth it stewed in was to die for; okay, if you're used to chicken, there's not much there; okay, you got to work at what is. But we loved it. 'Twasn't pheasant under glass, unless you count the lid of the crock pot. But it was really good.
And this morning I feel greatly righteous, which doesn't happen often in the life of a real Calvinist. This morning, I feel as if I honored creation and was amply rewarded for my abundant moral character. I ate what I harvested. I didn't just kill. Last night one of the pheasants I shot ended up where it should have, in a pot, on a dish, and, right now, in me. I feel a little bit like that braying Publican in the Bible, but please don't deny me a good dose of occasional righteousness.
I didn't pray over its tail feathers when it came down from the sky. I didn't anoint myself with its blood, nor swear my abiding respect for my fallen feathered friend. I'm still a long way from Native righteousness when it comes to the four-leggeds; but last night we feasted on what I took home from South Dakota, and it was good. It was really dang good.
And we got more in the freezer. Consider me a step up. This morning, consider me holier than thou.
Posted by J. C. Schaap at 5:50 AM