Questions without Answers

Fresh off a divorce, many would think it inadvisable to date multiples at the same time, although there are some who would say that’s just the ticket, I’m sure.  I found myself in the latter camp. A blonde and a brunette, both lean and athletic, both viewing me with a healthy skepticism, not
unwarranted at the time. After some time, and lots of whittling, I found myself woven into their lives.

I am lucky. The Blonde gave in and married me. The Brunette we kept around, now sharing the bed with us as her time comes to an end, a sympathy perk for the Blonde’s first dog, the aloof liver shorthair in our trio of crop-tailed pointers.

Five years later we fear it’s coming to an end. A deteriorating body betraying a young spirit. Kisses are hard to come by, but she still greets me at the door, pushing her front paws up off the ground as much as her arthritic shoulders allow.Sleeping Sydney

The Blonde and I have hushed conversations, asking each other questions whose answers we don’t want. How long can this go on? When do you think we should call it good? She hates the car, should I find a vet that does house calls? How will we know?

It won’t be easy. A first for both of us, our first go around with this type of thing. Her first dog, and while I didn’t come along until she was, by many standards, an old lady, she’s my first dog too. The others family pets, my relationships with them unearned. It was quite the victory in defeat when the Brunette started choosing my side of the couch when given the choice between the Blonde and I.

I wasn’t into bird dogs then, in practice at least. I knew I wanted one eventually, but hadn’t taken the plunge.

Knowing what I do now, I could have saved myself a lot of trouble, and started my obsession with a fire breathing, run for days shorthair. If I’d been able to insert birds where tennis balls currently take up space in her brain I’d have spent the last 13 years burning all the boot leather and gasoline I could afford.

Instead, we pay the landlord for pills, renting more sand in her hourglass. She seems upbeat, but you can tell she isn’t completely comfortable when she’s awake. The limping has gone away and stairs are still manageable. The meds wear off in the early morning hours. We’re snapped awake to her fitful cries as she stumbles to get comfortable. It is unnerving. I feel helpless.

I’ve made some bad decisions in my life, terrible really, but have very little regret. I learned a great deal from those experiences and am very grateful for where they led me. But I regret my lack of time with Sydney.  My ‘What if?’ girl. The answer I want to a question I can’t ask.

Hunting Matters: Judgement & Social Media

Editors Note: I wrote this after reading a post over on MeatEater.com, the first in what looks to be a series of upcoming essays, labeled Hunting Matters, on hunting, conservation, and cultural issues . The topic at hand was social media, etiquette, and interfacing with non-hunters. I highly recommend it, check out the post HERE. This isn’t necessarily a response, and certainly not a rebuttal, but more my thoughts and experience with social media as it relates to hunting. 

Growing up in the Northeast, vacillating between Massachusetts and Connecticut, I dread the usual Monday morning question, “What’d you do this weekend?” At a time of adolescent insecurities I always hesitated to add one more judgmental opportunity to the lengthy list my peers already had to choose from. “I went hunting.” Three simple words became forged in my perception as something to guard, to only trust with those close to me.

I shied away from the debates, tired of explaining why my Grandfather, Dad, and I spent the weekend “killing Bambi.” I learned this pursuit made me an outsider. And so, I built a habit of coming up with something else, trying not to stand out, like every other teenage kid, wanting to blend it.

This is a habit I carry with me to this day, despite relocating to the much more (overall) tolerant point of view on hunting here in Wisconsin. It is also hard to completely hide as an adult, the plethora of conservation organization stickers on my truck give it away to those in the know. And, as I mature, I care much more about authenticity than I do placating acquaintances.

My biggest hiccup, however, is social media. Having started college with the advent of Facebook, I learned, quite quickly, that people go there to form their judgments long before meeting or even speaking to you.

Recently, I’ve taken to it as a platform for advocacy, but still tentative. My posts more about conservation and promoting stewardship and rights organizations like BHA, RGS, PF, and others. I can count on one hand the number of photos I’ve posted involving game, and never a grip & grin. The photos so public “worthy” it would meet even the most stringent publication criteria.

Despite my trepidation on Facebook, I do however maintain an active Instagram account that centers around what I’ve placed in the short “About Me” section, New Englander Living the Dream in Wisconsin; Dogs, Food, and Outdoor Adventures. Even those words were carefully chosen, hunting noticeably absent. But if you look at my feed you will not miss that I hunt, from the photos of my bird dogs to the filtered shots of ‘what’s for dinner?’ highlighting whatever wild game we’re eating that night. It’s a cat and mouse game of saying it, but not.

I often debate about posting things. My “followers” consisting of real world friends from every generation of my human experience, and total strangers, at least in terms of meeting in real life, who share my passions. Over the four years I have been on Instagram I have found a common bond with many people, all outdoors and hunting minded, and I find myself with a sense of belonging. And, for once, a desire to share. I still make sure its tasteful, and aim to promote the positives, but, it is still far more than I would have shared in the past. The amalgamation that comprises those tuned into my feed presents a unique opportunity. It bridges the gap.  I have found a like-minded, supportive network, and I am able to promote a hobby. A way of being and interacting with the world to some of my peers who, otherwise, may have never thought anything of it.

The funny thing is, despite all of my worry, my insecurity and concern over judgement, I have never received a negative comment from any of my non-hunting friends. They may just scroll on, they may not like my post, but every now and then I see a username next to the little red heart symbol I never would have imagined would be there. And I smile.

For all the judgement I was worried about, and all the preconceived notions I had about how people would take it, I fear that I was the one with prejudice all along.

Hunting Matters, Conservation Matters. And I’ve learned that if those things make you happy, post away. The happiness and emotion conveyed transcends the subject. The cultural divide between non-hunters and hunters is smaller than we think. We should be making this less about battle lines and attitude. We should be promoting our story without fear of judgement, and without judgement of those we have not shared it with, yet.