Thursday, November 18, 2010

Watch out, Bambi!

If you live in Southern Illinois, you probably know not to go walking in the woods tomorrow. Today has been a busy day for hunters--putting up tree stands, getting guns and ammunition ready to go, looking for deer scrapings, and getting camouflage and red coats laid out for an early morning in the woods when deer season begins tomorrow.

Many local families depend on venison to keep their families fed. Others will pay to have their kill processed at local butcher shops and donate the meat to the soup kitchens. We farmers who have fed these deer all year are grateful to have them thinned to reduce the damage to our crops next summer. We are also grateful that lives will be saved by keeping some of these slain animals off our highways since deer cause many accidents, some of which are fatal to humans.

When our kids were at home, we had a son who loved to hunt—although he seriously considered hunting with a camera at one time rather than a gun—and we had one daughter who loved animals so much that hunting greatly upset her. (So did knowing that the little pigs she loved to hold down at our farrowing house would grow up and be sent to market.) Consequently, every night during certain times of the year, we had an ongoing debate about the virtue/vice of hunting.

Anyone who has seen a large beautiful buck running and leaping over a four-foot fence and off into the woods knows what a glorious vision that is. And a baby deer beside the road as we saw Monday on the way to Cape Girardeau to pick up our car is a visual joy. A doe with twin fawns is a thrill to see. So we understood Jeannie’s sadness that they are killed. Yet as Gerry explained over and over to her at the supper table hunting is beneficial to the deer. When the deer over populate and start dying from starvation, their lives are not only taken but their lives here on the planet are much less pleasant. Anyone who has had a car wrecked or a child in a car killed or a house destroyed by an invading deer knows that the graceful beauty of the animals is costly.

I understand the sadness that people feel about hunted animals or domestic animals raised for the market. Many will be moaning the death of the turkeys, which are now in our freezers or still at the super markets, waiting for next Thursday’s feast. I respect vegetarians whether from reluctance to eat another animal or for other reasons. But I also acknowledge that none of those turkeys or swine or beeves raised for the market would have had any life at all if not for those of us who eat meat. They just would never have been born in the first place. Gerald has a cousin who has a herd of cattle for pets because he loves them so much that he can’t sell them, but most of us could not afford that luxury. A few domestic animals would be in zoos or in sanctuaries, but that would be a very limited number of animal lives allowed to exist on the planet.

So I will enjoy our Thanksgiving turkey without guilt next week just as I liked seeing Gerry and his three hunting buddies enjoying pork chops and ham with their biscuits and gravy at lunch today at Woodsong. Actually Gerry just came up to get the other guys acclimated to the best hunting spots for tomorrow and to be in the woods with them as they prepared for tomorrow. (He has already left for home to pick up a softball recruit at the Atlanta airport on his way back to Athens.) Erin was here this evening between softball lessons at Future Swings to visit with her dad and was able to be in on the story telling taking place at the supper table. Hunting and softball both seem to encourage story telling, and we’ve had great stories throughout the day.

Hunting in the next day or two will add to many hunters’ repertoire of stories. Often those memories of fun and adventures are as valuable as the meat for our tables.

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