A strange thing happened to me the other day. On a late hunt I was in pursuit of the wily wapiti. I was following a fresh set of tracks, which looked like they could have been made by a bull elk, but they looked a bit strange. Just different, somehow.
Finally I got a glimpse of a grayish-tan hide through the bushes. Gray? It should be reddish brown, but I’ve seen odd-colored elk before. There!! The tip of an antler! I started to shoot, but my training kicked in; “Positively identify your target.” The antlers had a strange configuration. Palmated front tines? Wow! I carefully raised my rifle to get a better look through the scope.
Suddenly I was rudely interrupted in my quest for a trophy. A huge hand grabbed me by my coat collar and lifted me off the ground while another hand relieved me of my rifle. I stared into the face of an old man with white hair and a white beard. He was obviously another hunter as he was dressed in red.
In a booming voice he said, “Don’t do that, son. That critter belongs to me.” “What?” I croaked. “It’s yours?” It’s against the law to own a pet elk in Wyoming. The big man gave a booming laugh. “Yes, he’s mine. Kind of strayed a bit and I had one devil of a tracking job, but I best take him home now. Got to get him in shape for the big night. He doesn’t have much to do the rest of the year, but one night a year I work his tail off.”
I stood there gawking with my mouth open as he walked up to the weird-looking elk, put a halter on it and started to lead it off through the forest. “Come on, Blitzen,” he urged. “We’ve got a long way to go to get back to the stable.” I shook my head and decided I’d had one egg nog too many.
One year we had greens for Christmas. No, not salad. We had house guests who were really into the greenie movement. Everything natural and that kind of stuff. It was the longest three days of my life. I will call them FlowerChild and StarMan. Before their arrival my wife, Din, cautioned me to not offend them by challenging their paradigm. I didn’t know what that meant, but… “Whatever”, I lamely acquiesced.
They settled into the guest bedroom while I rigged up an extension cord for their electric car. They made some modifications such as covering the painting of George Washington kneeling and praying at Valley Forge. Nature is their God, not the Big Man Upstairs. They removed all the shampoo and body wash and Dial soap we had carefully provided for them, putting them under the sink. They replaced them with natural biodegradable products which smelled like crushed sagebrush.
Our lives were changed during their stay. We politely had a dab of their hummus and tofu. To humor them we joined them in Yoga sessions and “Incidental Meditation”, I think they called it. The introspection was hard on my psyche, but I toughed it out. Their incense and candles gave off a pleasant enough aroma but made my eyes water. I started to point out that the fumes bore a striking resemblance to pollution but Din shot me a withering look, so I corked my commentary.
But then it started getting personal. I had my dog-eared copy of “Huckleberry Finn” in my bookshelf. FlowerChild threw a mild fit. “Don’t you know that is a racist book?” she accused. I defended my favorite novel by saying that Mark Twain wrote it, in part, to ridicule the racism of the time. I gave some examples. No matter. The book had to be removed from sight during their visit.
They were aghast at my mounted deer trophies on the wall. I pointed out that wild game meat is better for you than beef. Their creed is they refuse to kill any living thing, thus their vegetarian diet. I asked, “Are carrots living things?” Din’s scowl silenced me for a short while.
I asked if they would like to drive to Moran Junction to see some buffalo. They informed me the animals were properly called bison. “Okay,” I agreeably replied. “Let’s go to Bison Valley for a drive and afterwards we can go to Bubba’s and order some bison wings. While we eat I’ve got some interesting stories about that old mountain man, Bison Bill Cody.” Din rolled her eyes. Our guests looked confused.
Christmas dinner was interesting. As I carved the turkey, I explained that we had obtained this free-ranging turkey which had only eaten vegetation, therefore it was a vegetarian turkey. I invited them to try it, saying it was no different than a plump and juicy carrot. They tentatively tried a bite, then another, then another slice, then another big helping. After dinner they veged-out on our emerald-green couch with full bellies and contented smiles.
I figure I didn’t corrupt their beliefs or change their paradigm. I had only given FlowerChild and StarMan a thoughtful, and evidently appreciated, Christmas gift.
Remember, “Life is always better when viewed from between the ears of a horse.”