I walked out to the patio where the men gathered around the grill eyes fixed like monkeys on a single banana. The grill was sizzling with juices and a flame out of the barbaric times. I was greeted around the circle, and invited to look at the grill, with all the other men. It felt like Moses approaching the burning bush. I was on holy ground.
I had been invited by my friend, Steve to his holy gathering called, Wild Game Night. His buddies, Mark, Charles, and Paul, were gathering to cook the game from their last year.
Before me were pieces of mystery meat, some I seemed to recognize while others looked like some strange walnut looking object with bacon wrapped around it. There were steaks of all sizes and colors as well. It was a feast for a king.
The men pointed to each one. Pheasant that was caught out east, in the fields of Holyoke, some bird called a chucker that tasted much like chicken. There was dove, pheasant, from Colorado and Nebraska, and then venison, which was just a fancy name for deer. And elk steaks from Charles secret spot deep in the mountains of Colorad. Along with a wild turkey caught by Paul from down south.
Within minutes we were all gathered, wives and men around a table eating the food, and with men, I had never met till tonight.
We stuff our faces with the meat, and listened with each bite of meat to the story of where it came, with a laugh, and a memory. All but Jayne and I, our offering for the evening was fruit salad.
Before this night. I considered myself a pacifist regarding animals. My father was never a hunter, and I could tell his strong thoughts after one day driving home from a pet store when I was 14 when I had a 12 inch Oscar in a giant plastic bag, along with another bag filled with a couple dozen goldfish that were to be his food supply for the next few weeks. My dad staring at the goldfish, asked what they were for, and in a bit of horror over the idea I would feed them directly to the fish. I sounded like a sadistic killer. And I just kinda agreed. He would explain a few years later that his father frightened him from it after a story with a raccoon, and a shotgun when he was a boy. It was a wound. And he never got near hunting again. And either had I, till this night.
I was staring at a bunch of these goldfish of my youth, now eating them, and enjoying it. The truth is, I had been killing animals for awhile. Or at least eating them. Ever since I was two, eating golden brown chicken nuggets from a McDonalds Happy Meal. Hot dogs from Oscar Meyer. And hamburgers. I think I was about twelve when I finally realized that the meat didn’t just come that way, or appear in a round or tube like product. And that a steak had to be cut from the body of the cow. It was actually a chicken, or a cow, or a pig. A real living animal at one time. It didn’t just appear in a plastic wrapped blue Styrofoam plate with a price tag. The red color never hit me that it was actually blood. That was gross, and yet, I didn’t even think about it. I had been killing animals long before I bought that fish. I just didn’t know it, and I don’t think my dad did either.
I did some calculations. Wondering how many animals I had killed by 29, assuming I was the normal average food eater.
I had eaten…
4 cows905 chickens10 pigs30 turkeys2 ducks1710 fish
There were also eggs. A life taken as well, even before its birth. All those bacon, egg, and cheese biscuits, or straight sunny side up. That was around 259 a year on average. I also like shrimp. Those vacations on the beach stuffing them in my face. I could probably eat 25 in one sitting, which would bump the total up another 400 or so a year on my own accounting.
My math added up to around 30,000 lives that were sacrificed for me to live. I had killed more animals than what most wars had in casualties. PETA would love that statement. But what made me sad, is not that they were dead, they were animals (not humans), but I had killed them never even knowing it. A holocaust of death without ever thinking twice, beyond some trite little prayer of bless this food. Never a prayer of thanks for the life that was taken for us, or a real sense of gratitude of what was being sacrificed for me. Not to mention, that not one of those
30,000 living beings had I ever seen die.
Someone else had butchered, and caught, and chopped off heads, and whatever else to get that to me in a tube called a hot dog, or on a foam plate. Or on a bun.
As I looked at the men, and their smiles, and their full bellies, it hit me that a man needed to get more connected to it. He needed at least at one point in his life, to go out and kill the meal for his evening. Even if it was just once. After that night, meat looked different for me.
It seemed to follow me everywhere. Eating at the Chinese buffet, little tiny pieces of chicken. A 79 cent hot dog as Sams Club. Where did it come from? How long ago did the animals get butchered? How long did it live for? Meat was starting to moo and chirp, and cluck.
I realized that I just would rather not see it. Rather not understand that side and the reality of life. I had turned a blind eye to all that death, leaving it for some farmer, and some butcher in some place far from me to avoid it.
It hit me that night, that for us to live, something must die for us. It was all connected to God, the fall, and the story of man and God, and animal. The signs were everywhere of this sacrifice and blood, and death. That seemed how God wanted it to be, for us to get more connected to it.
The communion table and the blood was only an image of what most people experience on a daily basis back then. But that was far more spiritual a place than I was at the time, and only to really discover as this story progressed. There was something deeply spiritual in that, I did not understand it yet.
All I knew was that I wanted to kill an animal. Turn it into a piece of meat. Cook it on the grill. Put it on a bun with some ketchup. And sit down with my wife and eat it.