The dreaded curse of Covid 19 finally caught up with me, and then my husband. Just in time for my 70th birthday. How timely. How rude. How telling. And we were expecting our daughter for a visit. Did you observe the many planets and moon in alignment recently? They still are, for that matter. The gods laugh. God winks. We sigh. The trick was to “keep going!”, “keep moving!”, “stay focused!”–even as I succumbed to several days in bed, throwing off the entire litany of motivational self-talk. That which we call God encompasses All. As in: Everything, Everywhere, All at Once. Yes, the name of an Oscar winner. (How could they not win?)

So, the quick précis—you do not want to get this disease—even for two-three days. I’ve felt worse but had forgotten how miserable one can truly feel. A five-day course of Paxlovid mitigated the severity of our symptoms and their length. Husband caught the beast (the other way around) four days later, after testing a couple times and showing negative. Apparently, he hadn’t received as heavy a viral load as I. Going about my business, as usual, I’d felt invincible. I was not. My last booster was administered six months ago, so a month past the proposed “safe zone” of five months. Daughter had been reimmunized just before traveling to see us—and so far, (knock wood) she’s avoided it.

Sometimes we’re nudged in a whisper, Pssst! Slow down. Sometimes we’re counseled by a passing breeze, Ummm, you don’t want to go that way. Sometimes we’re told flat-out, Whoa! Hell, no! But sometimes (often) we ignore these better angels. I hit a massive brick wall, as they call it. A friend in Scotland suggested, “You’ll be drained,” in a Scot’s understated manner of speaking, and this was weeks before Covid paid a visit. When one is drained, one has no resources to draw upon, nothing to prime the pump. Zip. Nada. And so it was I found myself in Frost’s dark wood on a snowy evening.

Blessèd are those who find themselves drained, for they shall be restored. Made to rest, slow down, and accept loving care from friends and family was good medicine. My husband experienced a shorter span of illness. After three weeks, I finally tested “negative” yesterday and sense my wits and health returning, but news of yet another obscene school shooting sickens me spiritually. . . .

Now, a strong pivot. . . following is an excerpt from my latest work, CROFTER, “On Hunting,” wherein I discuss firearms. The recent Nashville murders must be the last ones. Join me in working toward changing the culture in this One Crucial Thing. Caveat for those of you who feel a strong aversion to hunting your own meat, best skip.

On Hunting

On the first day of deer season, November 1, Jeff and I register the near and distant booms! of gunfire in our valley, much as one might hear an old grandfather  clock’s chime, cycling time. Area ranches permit hunting, for the most part. Friends and family arrive to answer an ancient call and celebrate a true Harvest Home, or in the case of spring turkey season, the return of warmer weather. Just as poignant and welcome.

The Hunt addresses an ancient question: that of hunger. It has come to be associated with sport, however, and, never an apologist for trophy hunting, I believe the game biologists are good at what they do regarding game management. Using the meat, and the hide, if possible, answer a moral question. Neither of us have taken an animal in years, but our son (normally) returns each year to hunt. Jeff helps him butcher as part of the responsibility, and John has become adept at preparing game in recipes. It’s good meat. If you’re not vegetarian. And it impacts global warming far less than beef.

Some specify the entire state as “frontier,” further removed from mere rural, hence, game abounds in our county. Multiple species of fish, including walleye, as well. I once heard someone “highly suggest” the construction of a wall around the entire state to keep it pristine. This would mess with herd migration, however, and not be particularly helpful. Thanks to our open spaces and sparse population, hunting of white-tail and mule deer, turkeys, geese, ducks, pronghorn antelope, and elk is closely regulated through the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, to promote and sustain the health of the species. (Yes, the upshot is not lost on me.) Mountain lions and coyotes, as predators (like us), are treated differently, through a management program. Presently, the big cats and coyotes are considered fair game, if deemed a threat, existential or not. My own view  on  cougars  depends  on  their  distance  and intention. When we kept horses and sheep, I would have defended them from a prowling cat, to be sure.

Sage grouse populations are falling, an issue of concern to those who would prefer the species’ survival. When I was eleven, my father took me dove hunting. I still have the 4-10 shotgun I used, now at the ready against rattlers and other varmints. Mom always roasted the birds, with rice and gravy. I didn’t hunt again until Jeff and I were first married and we needed a more economical food source, being cash-strapped newlyweds. Hunting provided us with venison and antelope, ducks and geese, and myriad bonding experiences. I took my first deer near Casper Mountain, at 400-plus yards. Dad always said we dove-hunt to practice for the next shot. It just took a while for my next shot.

Rites of passage notwithstanding for a kid, or anyone who feels a deep connection to the circle of life (an I eat you, now you eat me sort of thing), I believe we owe our integrity the bare facts of our nourishment, and its origin—even vegans, à propos the plant people. Perhaps I do write a manifesto of sorts, perhaps not. That our son can provide meat for his family, from a purely bedrock manner (no reference to cavemen— rather, as a fundamental talent) gives me a measure of peace and, yes, pride.

In 1978, Jeff and I drew an elk license. A boon! Except for my being seven months pregnant with our daughter at the time of the hunt. We borrowed the old Alaskan camper from Jeff’s father and headed for the hunt area in the near center of Wyoming. As luck would have it, we filled on the first day out. I say “we,” as it was a concerted effort in my view. Once home, the large cow elk took us eighteen hours straight to butcher in our small kitchen.

The weather prevented our hanging the carcass outdoors for any length of time. We had once learned that painful lesson. I will never forget the writhing swarm of maggots that “spontaneously generated” on an elk quarter given to us by a friend when we lived in Cheyenne. We had hung it in a too-warm room off our kitchen, resulting in a terrible loss.

Those not acquainted with meat processing might be appalled, envisioning a right bloody mess, but it’s not like that at all. Once the carcass has cooled out (and thankfully, this one had), and with the valuable assistance of one of my cookbooks that show cuts of meat, we simply sharpened filet knives and saws and dove in. My job mostly entailed cutting the fascia connective tissue from the muscle—basically sliding the long blade between the two, and dropping the tissue in the trash can.

It was our first elk, wonderful meat, and we were more than grateful.

Now a conversation I need to have, regarding firearms: I contend that certain guns are suitable on a homestead. However, I distinguish between rifles, shotguns, and pistols used for hunting and protection (being isolated and living among badgers, snakes, and cougars), and those military-grade weapons that are horrifically used against school children, congregations, concert goers, and protesters. Further, Wyoming reports the highest per capita suicide-by-gun statistic in the country. Two-thirds of suicides, 114, were by firearm in 2019. A newly established hotline number for the state is 1-800-273-8255. Nation-wide, it’s 988.

The subject of gun legislation riles many in the United States, but I believe the salient questions are being glossed over and ignored. My husband proposes a designation on one’s driver’s license, or a similar document, contingent on certain criteria, including a background check with psychological assessment. Unfortunately, if some poor devil is hellbent on destruction, he will find a way and regulation be damned.

So many ills of society hang on a simple solution. Caring for our brothers and sisters, and learning to forgive ourselves and one another—an Occam’s Razor of a remedy—simplest is best.

Copyright 2023, by Renée Carrier