T.D.E. History pt. II

A few years later but not yet in my teens there was a day I learned more about the natural world. I had spent all day of that chilly november fifteenth in school learning about proper nouns and division and american presidents and atoms. Dad came home soon after I did, pulling a trailer behind the current truck. It was a sight, a Ford 250 pulling a tandem axle flat bed trailer, both painted a vibrant orange. The truck was a former city truck, the trailer the frame from a derelict motor home. On the trailer were five whitetail deer, all shot and gutted and ready for butchering.

One belonged to my uncle, the lone buck in the lot. The others were all does and all laid down by my fathers gun, the apt named “meat stick.” This was a legal take of game, all tags paid for and stuck to the ears of the animals. Some were small, obviously 6 month old fawns just passed having spots. It was a gruesome sight, the animals all splayed out, chests held open with bits of wood, tongues rolled out and swollen. My dad quickly set me to work carrying the beasts to the pole barn for butchering.

We spent all night cutting the deer into steaks and roasts, pealing off the smallest bits for ground meat and summer sausage. I saw how the muscles of the lower leg have large tendons running though them, wide guitar strings. The massive purple lions were veined with small bits of fat and vessels. We cut the meat until our hands froze and eyes fell out. The old man was a veritable machine with the large knife, stopping often to sharpen the thin steal blade. Each cut of his was precise and meaningful, mine clumsy and hacky. The old war between experience and exuberance.

I grew up knowing where my paper came from. I knew what happened to my trash and my sewage. Food didn’t come from a styrofoam package or from a far away farmer it came from the rabbits we raised, the garden we held, and the animals we hunted. Heat came from trees, not mythical electric baseboards. I also saw the corn fields I hunted get turned to subdivisions and big box stores, the woods I rambled get turned to parking lots and the streams I waded turn cloudy and dark with sediments.

Many would have classified me as a hillbilly or redneck child. Those people wouldn’t have been wrong. My mom was a seamstress and my dad a constructions worker. You may have been able to call us white trash, but only on our worst of days. I am glad I grew up this way. Nobody can take it away from me.

I was active in the Boy Scouts of America all through my youth and teen years. I stayed more active than most, camping nearly every month with the group and going on long trips during the summer. Many were just setting tents up in public parks and pretending to be woodsmen, but others were mildly strenuous. We went backpacking for a week at a time in secluded areas, traveled to the fable Philmont in New Mexico and went sailing in Florida.

My friends all came from scouts and as we got older we started taking trips of our own. We went backpacking mostly, shunning the equipment intensive activities like kayaking and climbing. We learned together to camp minimally, using fire to cook and tarps to sleep under. At times we made shelters from sticks and leaf litter. My outdoor skills increased over the years and I grew to love the woods around me. My wardrobe shifted from worn carharts to fancy fleeces and gore-tex.

I took a job in a boutique outdoor gear store. The small family owned affair was homey and warm, the staff as likely to be reading a book in back as eating tacos with patrons in front. Writers were turned on me here, I learned of Ed Abbey and Jack Turner and Scott Carrier. My old hillbilly ways were challenged in many accounts, the new liberal side of me torn fighting the gun toting side.

My circle of friends slowly enveloped a small cooperative housing system near campus. The house had all makes and marks of people, from trust fund hippy to alcoholic conservatives. We would start drinking for the parties early, so we could sleep early and be at work in the morning bleary eyed but functional. One particular evening stands out. A brother of a housemate had brought a few friends over and they sat in the corner eyeing the hippy folk.

They were all clad in levis and flannel shirts, mostly unshaven with greasy fingernails. They were talking about trucks and mudding and all forms of hillbilly life. I had been removed from that world for some time but gladly jumped in the conversation. They were a bit amazed that the hairy guy dressed in a mexican poncho could go on about rifle cartridges and engine displacement.

A few other of the hippy kids tried to engage to visiting rednecks but none could. I was well trained to respect nature by my parents, but I also knew how to use nature like the rednecks. I will always respect the tree sitters and loggers alike. They are both groups of people doing what they deem necessary, either to save the world or feed their family. This is me, and this is what I think.

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