Thursday, October 16, 2008

The big rack. And Goliath.

When you hang around outdoorsmen, and really men, you inevitably get into stories, and sizes of things. Half of it is catching or killing the things, the other part is telling the stories about where you were, and bragging about doing it. Actually, more like 90% of it. You experience it once, and tell it maybe 10 or 25 times, or show it through pictures, often telling the stories to the same people.

Walk into any outdoors store, and you will find pictures plastered on the walls of deer, elk, bears, and fish with a someone next to it in camo, or gear. Thousands of pics. A man and his kill. People come in to put their picture up and show the world. I always thought that as so foolish. So redneck, and ridiculous. Who would want to do that? Why?

As I hung out with Earl and Ron and the other men, I was starting to notice that I was hearing some of the same stories from them. At first they all run together, but I was starting to hear the same ones, and pick them out. At first it seemed so unusual. “Earl, I heard that story already!” I would want to blurt out. But I began to see it was part of this world, and men. There was a chance to go back, relive and talk about the time like you were there again. Feel that moment, and look at each other with smiles of joy. Let everyone take it in, and oh and awe.

You would hear, “I caught four fourteen inch brookies.” Hands would go wider than fourteen inches, and inevitably the stories, and the hands would keep getting stretched out a few inches farther each time the day went on, and the story was told. The 4 would turn to 6 by the end of the day, and grow in size too. I can remember one day at Rosemont, the fishing was hot. I had about 12 trout in the morning time while we were there, feeling proud. I watched from the other side of the lake bank, while Ron, my fishing guru, pulled in what seemed about the same amount.

I thought I was tracking with him. As we gathered for lunch, his number was 30. And when I
pressed him, he admitted he didn’t actually keep count.

The numbers and size had some important part of why we had come out there. Although I could not understand it. Meanwhile the stories once told a few times, became legends, and somehow that was ok, all part of taking part in the moment. A 6 point elk, after a few years became 8 points. A 250 yard shot across the field, becomes a 350 yard shot across a valley in the snow.

And while many of the people were actually at the place, and knew some of it was a bit off, they never said anything. It was just part of what you did, and how you told the stories.

I found it so interesting that a man had the need to measure things. It was not enough to hunt and stalk a bull, the next question is how big? What did it weigh? How big were its antlers? How many points? All things that mattered in telling the story, and helping people fill all the details in.

Look at the story of Goliath. You know a man was retelling it.

“He was over nine feet tall… wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekel (125 lbs.)…his spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels (15 lbs.)”

Now, I am not saying he was lying about it or stretching the truth, but his height is debated amongst different texts that have him from 6’7” to 9’6” tall. Again, whatever it was, you can bet as the story was told, he got bigger. I understood why the text was confusing. Whatever was true, man wanted to make him bigger. And score him on a Boone and Crockett scale.

The author, Samuel made sure to tell us the weight, and size of everything. It seems even then, we understood the importance of those things. So it should not surprise you that find most men on the river, and they have a scale, and a measuring tape. And there is an official club that does all official scoring charts and records for animals.

Here is what you measure…

· Number of points of each antler.
· Tip to tip spread
· Greatest spread
· Inside spread of wide beams.
· Total length of abnormal points
· Length of each normal points on each side

I thought it was so foolish. I would never be that kind of guy. And then I started becoming it. I was fishing. And at first I was getting excited to catch a fish. Then I wanted more, and bigger.

And before long, I was thinking more about the story, and bragging than in the fishing. I was dreaming about the big elk, and the picture. I found out how to make the fish bigger in the picture. Extend the arms, and push the fish into the camera, pulling you in the background. I took pictures like this, putting them on facebook for all to see.

A friend, Dave, who owned the local fly shop in Colorado Springs explained it this way…

When folks begin to fish all they can think about is catching that first fish.
Then as soon as they catch that first fish they have to catch another...
Then it becomes about "how many" fish and I caught 20 or 40 or 80 fish!
Then it becomes about "how big" and catching that +20 inch fish, then the +25 then the +30....
Then it becomes about "the exotic" either fishing in some exotic place or catching something unique.
Then there seems to be a shift and it becomes more about the fishing and less about the fish... just getting out and catching "a fish" becomes the only goal just to prove that you still have what it takes.
The final stage has very little to do about the fish other than they are there. Catching is just a bonus. Fishing becomes larger that any fish and more that any quantity. Being out with the smells, sights, and sounds is all that becomes important...A time to renew the soul and hear Gods voice.

It seemed there was a time to be part of that. To get caught up in size, and amount. It was part of the sport. And a natural cycle. I found myself knowing not to do it, but secretly trying to catch more fish than Timm, or Cory. Even a bigger one.

What I realized is not that I was doing it, but to let the cycles come, and go. There was a time to go for a large fish, but there was time to just enjoy the river, and the beauty, and to sit and rest, and take it all in with God. I realized the problem was when people didn’t move out of these phases. Got stuck in one of them. The old man who keeps plastering trophy animals on his walls, wanting more and more, bigger and bigger. There was something else going on with the guy.

Something deeper than I could understand.

I was starting to see that it was just about the place, and the people you are with while doing it. It seemed another one of those mysteries no one knew, because you had to go through them all first. The reason people thought, “oh you think that is what makes you a man?” Is because they hadn’t gotten past the phases. In their mind, they were stuck on the numbers or size, thinking that is what it was about. It seemed that was the great prize at the end of all of it. As Dave wrote, “A time to renew the soul and hear Gods voice.”

You seemed to discover what it was about all that time. But you couldn’t get there until you went through it all. And while all this made sense to me in my head, I was ready to go out and kill the largest biggest bull a man could find in Westcliffe. And take pictures, tell the story a thousand times, and put the picture at the hunting store and on my facebook.

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