Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The deer hunter

The man who used to hunt on our land dropped by today. (Back when the land was still a ninety acre farm and woods, he called and asked if he could hunt for deer during the 'shotgun and rifle' season and Larry agreed provided he would post "NO HUNTING' signs on the property because he was fed up with drunken louts from nearby towns arriving to 'hunt' without asking permission, necessitating his having to contact the Pennsylvania game warden for our area who came out to arrest or fine them on a number of occasions--a dangerous proposition because many of them were so pissed they couldn't distinquish what was animal and what was human on the approach.

After a house was constructed on the last lot two years ago, it was no longer possible to hunt because of the Commonwealth's laws related to shotgun bullet distances, etc. and the hunter thanked us for the years he was permitted to hunt on the land and went on his way. (Twice a year, he used to arrive with delicious German sausages and bread from a bakery nearby from where he lives, as well as large bottles of rum which Larry used to drink but didn't have the heart to tell him he didn't drink spirits and not to buy it anymore. He did tell him eventually when the hunter happened to ask if he was still a 'rum man' one day but then the guy started buying him expensive vodka out of a need to buy him something alcoholic.)

This hunter's in his early sixties and from the old school--by that, I mean he's got integrity--gallons of it--and equal measures of good manners and knowledge of what's right and proper. (I think he's also lonely because his wife died of cancer a few years ago at Christmastime and his kids are grown up.) Even though he no longer hunts our property and has nothing to gain, this man still drops by with gifts around the holidays. We tell him not to bring anything, to just stop by and say 'hello', but he still arrives with large bottles of booze.

"I spent many happy years of hunting on your property,' he said today, after we'd finished our remonstrations. "I will never forget that. And you gave me permission when no other city people owning homes here would. I love the deer too, but these people just don't understand the herd in Pennsylvania has to be culled in order to keep them healthy."

I was moved because I understood where he was coming from and appreciated his honesty. He considered it a duty to continue to acknowledge a favor given him years ago. All too often today, people reciprocate or act decently only when they see an advantage or know they, too, will also gain something. Often they stop assisting-- even stop seeing a person--when the advantage or benefit to them as a result of the relationship ends.

I see this kind of behavior in business professionals and, in my opinion, lawyers are the worst offenders. I also see it among acquaintances. I see it in people who are parents. I see it in many adolescents, probably as a result of what they've seen their parents do. I've even been guilty of it in the past.

America seems to celebrate individuality above the many human character traits we should aspire to so perhaps this is one of the unfortunate results of such celebration. We tend to excuse bad manners by saying society's become too complex and we're all in a terrible hurry--that's a cop-out. The hunter reminded me about what's proper. Would that there were many people with his values and consideration, a man who cares about the deer he hunts and remembers favors granted in the past.

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