Wednesday, March 16, 2011

venison on the hook

My grandpa and uncles were (and my brothers became) serious hunters, going out for 10 days at a time, horseback with pack mules, coming back thinner, with nearly-empty packs but enough dirt, facial hair and usually some bear or elk to prove themselves mountain men. The men in the family all enjoyed target-shooting, and usually brought in some kind of fresh game sometime during the year.

Yet Poetry Daily's listing today caught my eye, about a fellow who
"never—it was a point of honor—
Hunted legally—not antelope
Nor deer nor elk. He never had a fishing
License either, for that matter, never."

Here at home, getting some wild meat didn't really necessitate having all the paperwork and plans. Mostly because 'getting a deer' here meant something a little different. It seemed we couldn't keep any kind of critter out of the garden, and it was understood by everyone that it's ok to protect your own property. Plus deer taste really good.

So when I was little we usually got venison every summer or fall, eating fresh butterfly steaks and cutting up the rest to store in the freezer for later in the year. Dad may not have had a license all of the years of my growing up, but we didn't consider it poaching. The deer was usually caught up to his knees in bean bushes, or with sweet carrot tops hanging from his mouth, and we always made use of the meat.

But this getting of meat during hunting season without a license, or perhaps a couple of weeks outside of season, was something I knew was not quite considered kosher by 'the cops' (considered governmental authority to us kids). It was one of those things you know is all right, but that you don't want the world seeing because they might not agree with you and cause trouble somehow. Like the fact that my mom taught us at home, or like 4 of us sharing seatbelts before we got a rig big enough for all of us. There was no sin, but there was something like fear, especially to a kid who just knew that there was a reason to keep something quiet from authorities.

The meat gathered in our garden usually hung upside down from large metal hooks in the cellar for a few days, and the door bumped into it when you went to fetch some canned good from a back shelf. In the dark, the thump of wood on flesh (or, if the door happened to miss it and you stepped in quickly, your hand against a cold, hairless carcass) set your heart thumping just as hard, and fed the imagination. What if someone saw what we did every day? What if there were spies? Would they believe us? Would they even realize it was just a deer?

1 comment:

  1. i remember how cool it was to see grandpa's (or vern or brians?) bear. it was sooo huge.