- Posted August 23, 2013 by
This iReport is part of an assignment:
The written word: Your personal essays
The Year of Passing
I find living in Wisconsin, the American upper midwest a blessing. With its rolling hills, the picturesque valleys and the heavenly landscape filled with dominant and several shades of green, blue and gold, it is paradise on earth.
In my farm, I have a small piece of this paradise. This is my space for reflection, meditation, enjoying the outdoors and of course some hunting which is a family tradition and a hobby. Many a night sitting around the bonfire while sipping on the aroma filled tea prepared over burning wood and watching the stardust, something which I only get to see at the farm and never in the city, I feel surreal and blessed.
In my SUV, I was rushing to the farm that afternoon. The spring turkey hunting season was in full swing, and I could not wait to get set up in my hunting blind. The anticipation of the hunt was just as much fun as the actual kill. I knew the hunting grounds really well thanks to all the time spent in the wild. I already had the blind in place near a food plot with a comfortable chair inside. All I now had to do was to lay out the decoys and call and hopefully have the big gobbler come in. It was a calm and crisp spring afternoon, and I felt privileged to be able to spend it outside and especially hunting turkeys, something which I do every year. Life, at that moment, could not have been any better.
I was on a small country road and not too far from the farm. As I came over a hump, I saw a squirrel in the center of the road some distance from me. I lifted my foot off the accelerator to let it get out of the way. The squirrel turned and headed towards the side of the road and safety, and I pushed back on the gas.
Suddenly the squirrel turned back and started walking towards the center of the road. Next moment it was right in front of a now accelerating me in my SUV. For me, instinct took over. Having never run over any animal and cringing that feeling, I tilted the wheels a little to get on the gravel pavement and avoid the squirrel.
As soon as I hit the gravel, I lost control of the large SUV. For those who do not know and something which I now know very well is that the gravel on the side of the road can be as slippery as a patch of ice. The SUV was on its own now. I went in the ditch and then turned the wheels to come out of it, overcorrected, got back on the road sideways and rolled over.
This all happened in a matter of seconds, but in real life it appeared as if things were happening in slow motion. As if in a boxing match, a few jabs to the head later, I ended up upside down. With all the front and side air bags deployed and still in the seat belt, I analysed the situation. I felt no pain and could see no visible blood. I knew I was right in the center of the road but could not see outside because of the deployed airbags. I felt like a sitting duck for another car coming up the hill and hitting me. I freed myself from the seat belt, kicked the door open and crawled out.
A little bruised, a little battered, I assessed my self and was relieved to find out that I was able to stand, was not hurting too bad at any one place and was not bleeding. I looked back on the road, and the squirrel was nowhere in sight. A part of me felt stupid for ending up in this mess for a squirrel, but there was a part of me which was glad that both myself and the squirrel walked that day, unscathed, unharmed. In any case, it was an instinctive reaction by me without any conscious thought process behind it.
Few days later I was back and hunting. The spring turkey season was winding down, and I was still without a bird. This evening I was set up in my blind with decoys laid out and calling, mimicking a turkey hen, as the gorgeous afternoon sun rubbed its sheen over the golden pastures. I knew the area well and had a pretty good idea of the turkey patterns of feeding and roosting. As the weather was nice and I had seen plenty of birds in the area, I was confident of some hunting action soon.
It was some time before I heard some gobbling at a distance. I called again, and the tom replied, this time from a little closer. I had engaged the bird and knew that it was coming in. It was game on.
I started getting ready for the hunt. I moved into position for taking the much anticipated shot, and I quit calling hoping to arouse the gobblers curiosity even more. I left the endgame for the decoys, to entice him in range.
Spring turkey dance during the breeding season is one of the best shows of nature to watch. Usually a male tom turkey or gobbler attracts the females with strutting, a beautiful slow dance with the show of his spread plumes and feathers. It is a treat to watch at close distance before the hunter kills and harvests the bird.
I then saw the bird as it came over the hill, completely focused on and locked into the decoys. In the setting afternoon sun, I could see that the gobbler’s head was all engorged and shining bright red with the anticipatory excitement, and there was a noticeable urgency in his walk.
The gobbler was now on the decoy setup. It was strutting and trying to get the attention of the decoy hen and at the same time hitting and trying to scare the decoy jake. I had it where I wanted it, lined up with my gun and with my index finger on the trigger.
I paused for a few long seconds. This delay was unusual and uncalled for. “Come on” I remember telling myself. Still I did not squeeze on the trigger. I just kept watching the bird and a few moments later having not taken the shot, moved back and slumped in the chair. This was so unlike me, the avid outdoorsman and a hunter forever. I was not sure why I did what I did and passed on a fantastic hunting opportunity.
The gobbler stayed there for a few minutes and finally realizing the setup moved away and on with its life. Still slumped back in my chair, I was wondering about what had just happened. Why did I let go? Is it that I am getting too old, too lazy, too soft or what.
A few days back the squirrel was saved by an unconscious, instinctive reflex reaction, and I was lucky to walk away from that wreck. This one, however, was a conscious decision on my part of not taking a life. But why?
It was not long before the answer dawned on me. I had succumbed to the mad mayhem of global death and destruction. I had spared a life, be it that of an animal, both consciously and unconsciously in the face of unending universal killing and misery, a burden heavy on my conscience. I did not have a kill in me. I could not take a life, even in the way of hunting.
Do these actions of mine mean anything in the larger scheme of things? I guess not. What I know is that they meant a world to that one squirrel, to that one turkey, and for now that is alright with me.