Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Kill

Kim Hiss, avid back-packer, went to work as an editor for Field and Stream, and decided, with some prodding from friends, that she really ought to try hunting, the very heart of things in the magazine that paid her bills.

That story of her first deer hunt is a story she tells on To The Best of Our Knowledge (and you can find it--and listen--here). I would guess that all of us who've hunted have our own first story. I certainly do, even though I wasn't the trigger-man. 

Kim Hiss's first kill was what I would certainly consider a long shot--something in the area of 250 yards. She and an experienced guide spotted six or seven including two bucks. They determined which of the bucks she'd shoot, and she pulled the trigger. The buck went down, but was not out; so she ran towards him and took another shot when she came closer. That was all. It was over.

Ms. Hiss says she's always been a meat-eater, but she'd really never taken responsibility for what was on the plate before her. She'd never killed anything and loved Bambi as a kid. Constitutionally, she wasn't sure she was cut out for killing a deer--or anything else, for that matter. 

The shots she took, she says, were, obviously, deadly. "It happened as cleanly as it could have," she says. What she means is that when the deer was killed there wasn't a great deal of suffering.

"I had a very mixed reaction," she says, to what she'd done, a very different reaction than her guide had, a guy who took the whole thing rather matter-of-factly. "My reaction was very sober," she says. "There was this feeling of relief that he'd gone down quickly," but, she says, "I cried a little, trying to come to terms with it," with what she'd done. For a moment she stood over that deer, then went to the ground herself and cradled the creature she'd killed.

The interview goes on to talk about the responsibility every meat-eater has to consider where food comes from and the slaughter every Hardee's half-pound Angus burger requires. Right now, as I'm writing, there are probably at least a couple of livestock trucks on highways no more than a half mile from where I'm sitting. If I look out the window, I'll see their Las Vegas lights.

I've never shot a deer, but I could be talked into hunting very, very easily. I've shot all kinds of things during my life, including a goose from the back of a motor scooter along a Lake Michigan beach and a ground squirrel eating our lettuce. I'm not pure, and this isn't a anti-hunting screed.

But Kim Hiss's story reminded me of another story I just love, and it goes like this: two white kids are out in the wilds hunting with a buddy who is Zuni. They're all church-goers, all good kids, all good hunters, all associated, one way or another, with a small Christian school.  All of them love hunting.

There are plenty of elk to harvest out there in New Mexico, so it isn't particularly difficult for them to down a buck a piece. But when the Zuni kid shot his, when they come up on the animal and take out their knives to dress him, the Zuni kid--an evangelical Christian--takes out a fetish, a little stone-carved animal he had on a string around his neck, takes out that fetish and washes it in the blood of the elk. Doesn't say anything really, just does this ritual-thing, ritually.

It was, the two white boys thought, a perfectly pagan act from a nice Christian kid. That's how it was I was told the story, in a kind of bewonderment--"how could he do that?"

Honestly, I couldn't help thinking, "Wow--how could he not? why would he not? And wasn't that beautiful?

Really, all I've got to do is swing this chair to the window right here beside me, and I swear soon enough one or two or three of those livestock trucks will fly by, each of them all lit up and loaded in the morning darkness.

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