Last Saturday, the Melon Mafia gathered in Sanborn County to renew an annual event we call “The Greatest Hits Tour”. It’s literally a “last blast” pheasant hunt as the New Year begins and the pheasant hunting season ends. The “Greatest Hits” part refers to walking our favorite hunting spots one more time together before we call it a season. This year’s GHT did not disappoint. It was a crisp but pleasant day with lots of sunshine and a minimum of wind. Some snow drifts were a bit deeper than our old-ish legs would prefer, but we’ve certainly experienced worse.
Hunting in the late season usually means less shooting and more awe-inspiring views of hundreds of pheasant getting up well out of shooting range. If you’ve never experienced a couple hundred pheasants all taking flight at the same time, you really should. It’s a sight you’ll never forget. This year we were able to mix in some excellent shooting opportunities with the usual panorama. True to form, I somehow overcame my embarrassingly poor shooting of the early season to finish with some fancy trick shootin’ and decent success at the end. My motto: I’d rather be lucky than good.
One of the simple pleasures of chasing pheasants around on a nice day is the ability to forget the world’s problems for a few hours. I like to think that shutting out the rest of the world and focusing entirely on the moment is one of the characteristics of a great hobby. It was surprising then that as we gathered at the end of the day for our annual GHT photos, I was hit with some unusually “big thoughts”. As I looked around at our group of very close family and friends, a question popped into my mind: If you added them all together, how many firearms does this group own? I don’t know the exact number, but I’m quite sure if we added them up the total would generate panic strong enough to send half of New York City running away in a frothy panic fearing for their lives. I also know there are very few places on the globe where any of those millions of total strangers would be safer from gun violence than with us in my brother’s farm yard.
There is one phrase in the English language which can send me running as fast a possible away from the speaker: “Well, ALL you have to do to solve this problem is…” It’s a surprisingly ecumenical phrase, just as likely to come from both the ignorant and the “expert”, and from the earnest and the opportunist. It permeates the halls of government, the coffee shop, places of worship and what passes for “electronic news” these days. It comes from both the Right and the Left. It comes from every race and ethnicity, and from the learned and the uneducated. Life is complicated. We don’t live in an “all” or “nothing” world, although there are plenty of hacks, thieves and opportunists who will tell you otherwise. School shootings, racial unrest, poverty, K-12 education, public corruption, etc. Problems are complex and didn’t become problems overnight. The same goes for solutions.
The New Year brings with it the new session of the South Dakota Legislature. Our “best and brightest” return to Congress in Washington. Work is underway crafting the sensational/lurid/scary/fearful stories for the February TV ratings “sweeps”. Oh, and there’s (ugh) a Presidential campaign and election. As these and other influential types begin the new year and make choices on how they will use that influence, I humbly suggest the following New Year’s resolutions:
-For those in office or positions of power: Spend real time and attention with people who DON’T see the world just like you do. Don’t wait until tragedy visits you or your family to imagine life in someone else’s shoes. For a moment don’t assume you have all the answers. Be open to the fact that the best answers might come from those who don’t look like you, think like you, or were born in a different country or century. Don’t be anybody’s rubber stamp. Questions authority, especially if YOU are the authority. Avoid the temptation to surround yourself with “Yes Men”, and have at least one person in your life who has 100% freedom to call bullshit on you when you have it coming.
-For the rest of us: Be open to the possibility you don’t have it all figured out. Be discriminating when choosing your sources for accurate information, whether in your home town or around the world. Don’t assume those in positions of power are particularly smarter or better informed that you are, or particularly care about you beyond your ability to give them what they want. Push yourself out of your comfort zone at least once a month. If you have the means, travel to a place where you stick out like a sore thumb. If you don’t have the means, travel to a part of town where you stick out like a sore thumb.
Like it or not, we are all flawed, and like it or not we are all in this thing together. Tell you what: If you promise to do your best this year, I promise to fight the overwhelming urge and opportunity to be a wise-cracking cynic in 2016 (which is a tall order, because there is a level of twisted fun and endless opportunity being a wise-cracking cynic). Here’s to us, and here’s to hope for a better year in 2016.
PS…I’d love you to post your favorite pheasant recipe, and your thoughts on these musings. I’d also love to have you share this post with others who might find it worthy of a read. If you find some kind of redeeming quality in these musings, click on “Follow” and they’ll come automatically to your inbox. I’m also seeking gainful employment, so if you hear of or have an opening from someone of my limited skills, shady experience and questionable fashion sense, please give me a holla. JT