The cats had a busy weekend: either Kitten caught his first mouse, or Ben caught his second and Kitten stole it. In any case, the mouse ended up -- after some commotion -- in Kitten's teeth. Then we learned that Ben's brother, who still lives in the city, successfully tracked and captured a plastic bottle cap, presenting it to his humans by their bedside, just as the country cats do with the mice. An amazing thing, really: that the call of the wild should sound as clearly in Brooklyn on a normal Saturday morning as it does out here. Then Kitten went hunting again: he encountered a very old rosewood statue of a Chinese god in the living room, stalked it and wrestled it to the ground. Fortunately, neither he nor the god were injured: that thing is heavy, and it towers over him. One thing I'll say about that Kitten: he isn't afraid of folks who are bigger than he is.
The doorbell rang this morning and it was Andy, dropping off two venison steaks and a couple of packets of ground venison. Oh, my -- there is not a taste that says "autumn" as clearly as that one, but it is not a taste not experienced by many people these days. I remember when I was young: dead deer hanging by their back feet in peoples' yards, waiting to be dressed. I remember sitting in a restaurant once with my mother, when a man drove up and parked his car right outside the window with one tied to the roof of his car, its shoulders and head hanging down over the windshield. I was disgusted and embarrassed by all that, I remember, didn't like those freshly killed reminders of where meat comes from: I preferred it packaged and clean in a store, neatly set on plastic trays with plastic wrap stretched over it.
But that's not what hunting is like. It's not about neat and clean. To come close to one's food before it becomes one's food is to respect it greatly. One moment it's an animal, doing what an animal does, and then it is not -- there is no terrible time of cramped captivity, of force-feeding, no cruel chopping off of beaks. And there is no terrible time of starvation in a habitat shrunk by human sprawl to a size incapable of supporting all the herds, no dreadful moment of mortal impact with a speeding car, a moment in which the deer may not be the only one who dies. Hunting thins an animal population -- which will thin itself, in more terrible ways, if hunting does not occur.
So I've always been in favor of it. I have my memories of a country childhood, the ones that embarrassed and disgusted me, for sure, but also memories of Pappy Doyle stopping by with a couple of rabbits or a duck after a good day out, a normal part of rural life. The powerful National Rifle Association does not get to claim me as a member, though, to help them intimidate all of our elected officials in the persistent American political tabu that must seem utterly bizarre to people from other countries. The NRA wants to be sure we'll all still be able to buy a rocket launcher if we want one, and they always reference sport in their defense of our right to bear arms.
But you don't need an assault weapon to hunt a deer or a duck. They're only for hunting humans.