If you only had one shot
By Hobie Morris
It’s a cold early November morning. Snow covers the ground. Deer hunting season is beginning. Gun fire – the deer are alerted to danger.
A hunter carefully loads his weapon. He clicks on its safety. Slowly he walks through thick brush to a spot he scouted during bow season. His pulse quickens as his eyes search into the still darkened woods. He patiently waits.
Suddenly a huge buck bounds over the crest of a nearby knoll. He stamps the ground and snuffs the air. He catches the hunter’s scent who is slowly raising his gun and shoots – and misses. The buck takes a tremendous leap and quickly vanishes into the forest. The hunter sees only young does the rest of the day. As the day darkens, it is time to go home. (He’ll hunt several more times but unsuccessfully).
Hunters anticipate “Opening Day” for the entire year. Today’s hunters are sports people first and foremost. Delectable venison is a bonus – but not a necessity. If unsuccessful, there is always next year.
By comparison, America’s pioneers hunted to survive. Their single shot rifle is all that stood between usually many hungry mouths, starvation and possibly death. With only often meager field crops to depend on, hunting was an essential necessity. Hunting honed one’s knowledge of animal habitat, behavior etc and, most of all, one’s marksmanship. The latter often produced stories that grew in their telling.
Tupper Lake area Adirondack guide, Mart Moody once told about a hunting experience he had.
After missing a deer, Moody was so mad he smashed his gun barrel on a hard maple tree…twisting the barrel into an indifferent “S”. With the disabled gun over his shoulder, the disgusted Moody continued through the woods. In his excitement of seeing a huge buck standing at the base of a mountain, he fired his gun.
Moody, of course, missed the deer but his shot traveled three times around the mountain killing two large black bears and a woodchuck. He mentioned the woodchuck, in his own words, “to keep the story accurate.”
When game was spotted, our pioneer ancestor aims his rifle with the intensity of a man who only has one shot to fire. A miss means minutes to reload. His trigger finger gently squeezes the trigger. His aim must be true or else.
It’s late December. The 2019 deer season is over. The woods are quiet; the rural roads mostly deserted. Our 4 decade “off the grid” winter routine resumes its tranquil ways. I’m outside a great deal with daily firewood demands, a 24/7 necessity. A bonus of such work is the time it allows to think about things.
My thoughts often echo what General Robert E. Lee wrote in an 1870 letter, that we must cast our eyes backward in times of turmoil and change, concluding that “it is history that teaches us to hope.”
I confess I spend far more time thinking about the past than the scary unknown and uncharted waters of the future.
Lois and I are temporary residents of land once occupied by unknown generations of pioneers, hunters, and famers who lived, worked, and passed on. Working alone, I sense their presence all around me. Robert Lee’s sage observation is correct: the past (and land) gives me hope too!
The modern day hunter’s advantages are many. He can shoot many times without reloading. If he misses, he has more chances. His aim isn’t in desperation like America’s one shot ancestors.
I thought about this recently. Does the “many shot” attitude send out the wrong signals? Would we live our life differently if we more carefully followed our ancestors’ “one shot” philosophy – of life?
“Many shots” imply if we mess up today we will still have endless opportunity to make amends and redeem ourselves.
For a moment, let’s envision that everybody in this community has one day to live and therefore must make the very best (one shot) of the short time remaining.
Will we see beauty we missed before? Will we see goodness, kindness, and love in others for the first time? Will we be less critical, more tolerant, cheerful, and forgiving? Our allotted time is a priceless gift we can’t waste – even for a second. A “one shot” revaluation would make all our lives happier and more meaningful.
Time to get back to splitting firewood. This simple country man often thinks about our pioneers. In many still valuable ways, their “one shot” life is still on target. What do you think?
Editor’s note: Hobie Morris is a Brookfield resident and simple country man.