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The Ten-point Norwegian
by Mike Palecek
Ever see a cock-pheasant, all stiff and beautiful ever' feather drawed and painted, an' even his eyes drawed in pretty? An' bang! You pick him up, bloody and twisted, an' you spoiled somepin better'n you.
- John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
Recently six hunters were killed in Wisconsin and another is now headed off to prison for life.
Well, that's a start.
I don't like hunters. They kill when they do not need to. When I see a bunch out in a field in their bright orange dunce caps, I try to honk and then flip them the bird while they raise their shotguns in salute.
I used to be a hunter. My dad took me pheasant hunting in northeast Nebraska back in the '60s. He was from South Dakota and had hunting in his blood. I bought an Ithaca 12-gauge with a ribbed site, with my own money.
And then I really got hooked on duck hunting somewhere in the '70s. Ducks and geese fascinated me. I think because they came from somewhere else. They were migrating, passing through, when the pheasants and me had only been just here.
Then one day I downed a hen mallard in a slough, cornered her and tried to kill her off by holding her head under water.
I thought to myself, how stupid is this, for one, trying to drown a duck, we could be here all day, and secondly, trying to kill this bird, for what damned reason?
So I let her up. She swam away, to die some day, some way. I walked away, headed toward the same. Threw the Ithaca in the swamp, or sold it, or left it in the trunk of my car. I forget.
I heard that later my high school group of friends would joke about "pre-duck Palecek" and "post-duck Palecek" as later I went on to seminary and civil disobedience, etc. I don't see them anymore, they were so pre-duck.
I was a dumb guy once, probably still am. Dumb guys are the last to know.
I've seen deer hung up in the front yard of somebody's home, in town, while little kids walk past on their way to school. I've seen hunters gloating over dead deer in the field, big brain-dead grins on their faces. I've heard measured defenses of hunting from guys who really should know better.
And I've seen the hunting channel, really big, really-really dumb guys whispering, pointing toward the bear or deer they are about to kill for no reason. Then later going up and petting the dead animal like they just loved it so much they had to kill it.
There is some sick psychology to hunting, harvesting they call it.
You see something beautiful, majestic, but just beyond your reach, so you kill it and there it is, you own it, put it on your wall and it is yours, like the Silver Hummer in the drive, or Mary Jane from the cheerleading squad upstairs boiling bologna.
And you bath in the afterglow in your new basement den, your feet propped up in just your orange socks, watching football on a screen the size of Vermont.
No wonder this country will not last much longer. That's probably a good thing.
It's like when God handed out brains, the line was much longer than he had anticipated, and after a point, he still had the whole midwestern United States to do.
So he said, "Hey, guys, all I've got left are these orange mittens and these camouflaged socks, sorry. But they're pretty cool, right? See, you put them on, I can't see you! Here. Yeah, that looks great. No, really."
And the dumb guys scooped up the orange and camouflaged hats and pants and coats and said, "Let's git 'r done," with no idea what that meant.
Over Thanksgiving, my wife, son, daughter, and mother-in-law, and I slumped toward east-central South Dakota to my brother-in-law-the-banker's place.
On the way I spotted this enlightened billboard: "SD Rejects Animal Activists. Fur, Fish, Livestock Are Are Economy."
Down the road a bit, like Burma-Shave on a mental hospital front lawn: "The United States Rejects Human Life Advocates. Bullets, Bombs, Caskets Are Are Economy."
I am so proud to be an American.
No, I'm kidding.
A while back there was a photo in the paper of another Wisconsin hunter, this one still kickin', who had bagged a 28-point buck.
Remember the song about the turty-point buck? No relation.
Well, the hunter says in the article as he holds the animal's antlers for the photographer as the deer's eyes hang half-closed and the tongue lolls out the side of the mouth, that he really, seriously feels kind of bad about taking such a beautiful creature from the woods. No, really.
Don't believe it folks.
He is a dumb guy wearing orange clothes with a deer head in his hands.
He'll say anything to stay out of prison.
An' eatin' him don't never make it up to you, 'cause you spoiled somepin in yaself, an' you can't never fix it up.
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