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Wild Game Hunting........
This afternoon I was walking the dogs in the woods adjacent to the land we have been camped on all winter. I rounded a corner and spotted a huge white shiny pick up truck with a big guy in camouflage getting out of it. I have been surprised to not see anyone on that land for months and I approached to see if this was the person who owned the land. The guy walked toward me and introduced himself as Charles. I introduced myself and we shook hands. When I asked if he owned the land, he told me that it belonged to his father’s fourth cousin. “Does that make you about 10 times removed?” I asked. We laughed. Next thing I know he is explaining to me that for the next four weeks it is turkey hunting season and he will be in those woods hunting and we had best avoid being there. He gave me every detail about hunting turkeys. Here is what he explained: “Most times the men give a call and the ladies come running to him. But, I got em fooled. I give the ladies call and the men come running and then I shoot em.” I was silent. I just kept picturing the visual of these beautiful birds going toward a sound thinking that they are about to mate and instead getting shot. I was picturing the wild turkeys who have been waking me up in the morning lately with their gobbling outside our camper. While I was busy thinking about all this, Charles invited me to look at the photos he slid out of his pocket. With a huge smile he showed me he and his hunting buddies in photos with the various animals whom they have killed. There were photos of different men and boys in camouflage outfits holding dead turkeys with their feathers spread out and smiling as they held up the limp heads of dead deer. There were about fifty photos. I was mostly silent while he explained each one. “This here is a ten point buck that this Mexican fella I hunt with shot during bow season. That is him there. I told him to hit the buck here.” (Charles points to his side). “But, he shot that buck right in the behind.” (Charles laughs hard). That arrow went in right here” (Charles points to the wound and the tail end of an arrow sticking out of the deer’s butt cheek in the photo of the smiling Mexican guy holding the deer’s head in triumph) “and went straight through to that bucks liver or spleen and he bled to death… But it took us 5 hours of chasing that buck until we found him in the sink hold over there. This here dog is the one who finally found him” (He points to a beagle in the photo.) “That dog is worth his weight in gold.”
He shows me another picture of a dead turkey in a smiling mans right hand and a rifle in his left hand. "They are such beautiful birds," I say. "Yep," he says, "they are really beautiful. I have shot some real beauties."
wild turkey chick
I ask him if his father hunted. He replies, “Well, yeah, of course. I grew up here.”
He asks me where I am staying. I tell him. He says he will walk me there so he can make sure he doesn’t shoot toward our place. I hadn’t said I was married, but he assumed I was and said, “How old are you? Does your husband tell you how beautiful you are? You tell him an old man was hitting on you and he better tell you how beautiful you are and act like it, too.” I tell him that JC already does that so I don’t have to pass on the instructions.
He is walking next to me and the dogs carrying a bag of turkey decoys and a huge rifle. The way he is carrying the rifle, it is aimed at my smaller dog, Bean. I am not crazy about that. He is going on and on proudly about all the animals he has killed in those woods. Then when he hears that my dog Tikvah is from the Middle East, he says, ”Those Arabs are violent people, all those people over there are violent.” (This is coming from a guy holding a huge rifle and a collection of photos of the beings he has killed). I reply, ”It is my experience that most people are violent and most people do not think of themselves as violent. They are doing what they think is right or what is familiar or is part of their culture.” He says that he does not agree with that. Then he goes on, “I would never cause any harm. I am a Christian and that helps. Well, unless some guy broke into our house. Then I would kill him.”
“Or a turkey or deer,” I say. “Well that’s different.” Charles says.
I tell him that I don’t think it is so different. And I tell him there are plenty of people calling themselves Christian who promote violence in different ways. He agrees. But I know he is not including himself in that group of violent Christians.
He asks if I am a vegetarian. I tell him I am. He smiles and says, ”I could be a vegetarian. I like vegetables. But I like to eat meat. At least I kill my own meat. If you ever saw what goes on in those places that raise chickens or even pigs….well it is just plain awful. If you could just see that.”
“Well Charles, that is one area we agree. If someone insists on eating meat I would rather they take responsibility for the whole process rather than paying someone else to kill for them.”
I am struck by how surreal the whole thing feels. Here is a guy with a huge rifle telling me how violent those people in the Middle East are….the same guy is telling me about all the innocent beings he has killed for an unnecessary food….the same guy who told me about how smart the mother turkeys are and how they protect their young from predators until they are old enough to fly up into the bushes….. and the same guy is educating me about the horrors of factory farming….all the while unaware that my whole life is spent looking into the reality of these places and working to change that reality in our culture.
I realize that I don’t really know him and he doesn’t really know me. But our conversation was respectful and open.
We get to my turn in the path. I tell him I am heading up that way and he stops to rest his heavy bag of decoys and his rifle before he continues down his own path. He looks straight at me and says, “You are sure one interesting person….” I shake his hand and say goodbye. He reminds me not to walk in there for four weeks while he is hunting turkeys. Then he keeps waiving while I head down the path, I turn around and see him still waiving and he yells “Remember to tell your husband that an old man was hitting on you and that he better keep treating you right.” I yell back, “No worries, he’s got it right”. (I, of course, wonder why this guy thinks that showing pictures of the animals you have killed is part of “hitting on” someone. And my mind immediately analyzes the term “hitting on someone” and I think about how even that has violent roots.)
The woods are so close to here. I have seen the turkeys or their fresh tracks on all of our walks. I expected to hear his rifle firing after I got home with the dogs. His rifle never did fire today. In my own sweet imagination I picture him sitting in one of his many tree stands watching those beautiful turkeys passing by him and appreciating them and never lifting his rifle to kill them. I picture him biting into an apple and a peanut butter sandwich and letting those turkeys live. Anything is possible. I will keep holding that vision.
Well, the day after running into Charles the turkey shooter, I am in our camper and I kill a mosquito who lands on my arm…..without really thinking about it. I know that mosquitos have conciousness. I know that they are aware when there is someone trying to kill them and they try to escape harm. It occurs to me that I have very different feelings about other beings depending on my personal relationship with them or my story about them. I am just like Charles. I feel more sadness when I see a dog or a deer lying dead on the side of the road than I do if I see a a mouse or a snake in the same condition. I can just relate to that dog or deer in a different way. I have a different story about them. And I come back once again to that place of knowing that all I can do is just act on what I know in all my choices and cause the least harm possible.
We all have our inconsistencies.....some are just more obvious than others.