You kill it; you eat it.
By David Wantz, University of Indianapolis
Sarah Palin and I share something in common. We can both field dress a large animal. The similarities end there.
I learned to flay and dress dead animals immediately after I learned how to shoot them. My grandfather Parks insisted we eat anything we killed. We ate plenty of squirrels and rabbits when I was a youth. A snapping turtle and even a groundhog found their way into the stewpot and onto the table. My brother had to eat a chipmunk, once.
Once, when I visited family on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, my cousin Diane served muskrats her son Tommy had trapped. The red pepper took away the liver-like gaminess and the carrots and potatoes made it seem like a pot roast.
You kill it; you eat it. It teaches you a lot about the sanctity of life.
At 12, I ended the life of a button buck that had been gut shot by a bow-hunter. My dad and I dragged it out of the stream where it had thrashed out its last breaths. We hung it for three days before cutting roasts from its haunches. As all roasts do, it benefitted from a long, slow cooking in a 200° oven. I killed it; we ate it.
It was a sad day when I was sent, alone, to slaughter chickens at Uncle Jackson’s. Killing an animal at a distance is easier than killing it up close. Up close you feel its heartbeat and sense its terror as you raise the axe over its head. There is nothing funny about seeing a chicken running around with its head cut off. It feels more shameful, shameful to the dignity of the dumb chicken that you could not do the execution efficiently. After the scalding and plucking, we ate the chickens, too.
In 1978, my brother and I went goose hunting on a farm pond where we encountered a wall of birds rising off the water. We shot 11 times and 36 birds fell. A few of them were dead. We had to shoot or strangle the cripples. It took us the rest of the day to find them. We cried openly. So did the farmer who witnessed the slaughter.
We ate our sins all that winter. It was the most respectful, the least shameful, thing we could do. You kill it; you eat it.
So, when I learned the other day that some friends in Montana had killed a marauding black bear in their cherry orchard, I was appalled to learn they buried the carcass. They saved the hide to make a rug, but the meat was left to rot under a thin layer of soil. It shamed the bear and shamed them, too.
I don’t much like Sarah Palin, but neither do I join the laughter when people deride her for being able to field-dress a moose.
You kill it; you eat it.