Friday, December 19, 2008
PJ - Elk Video.
One of the friends I met in Colorado was PJ. He was a transplant, near my age, and was a native from a small town in West Virginia. While PJ and I shared our faith, and my now emerging love for the outdoors, we could not have come from different places and town from back east. He had grown up in a mining area and from a place where the school systems take off an entire week at the start of hunting season—the whole town closed up shop and took to the woods. Gun shots echoed in the valleys and sung in harmony like you might find at a Broadway musical. Style was different as well. You don’t wear multiple jackets in Wheeling. Not cold weather, rain, warm, fleece, and designer coats, and as far as style? That was absurd, and wasteful. You have one all function jacket. A Camo one. It serves all purposes. It can be worn out on the town to shop, in a tree stand, or even to a funeral. And that is where he came from. Hunting wasn’t just a luxury, it was part of how you survived, and the food you kept for meals.
It was this man, who one day invited me to his place with the words, “I have a video I want you to watch.”
It was titled “The Truth Big Bulls 10.”
If you would have asked me to explain what it was without looking at the cover, it would have been quite a challenge. Sounded like a cross between a black gospel choir and a sports team. But neither. It was a hunting video. Elk hunting. Men hunting right here in Colorado.
While I was into gear, and trying to understand myself as a man. I just wasn’t bred to hunt. I had never wanted to, and had a hard time seeing the transition from the kind of man I had been to any form that included camo or killing. Never had any reason to go kill, meat was plentiful in the stores. And there was definitely no real interest in any form of sitting in a deer stand. Or putting on camo and waiting for it to come to me. I was quite comfortable in going to find it in white and blue Styrofoam.
I had a friend similar to PJ in high school. I would always make fun of my friend, Jeremy who liked to hunt. He was the only half-backwoods friend I ever had who was living in the redneck south, but also at our posh little private school and living in Brentwood.
Jeremy like PJ, had came from a long line of hunters. Hunting went deep for all of them. It’s tradition in their family to hunt. He hunts on the same land where his family moonshined years ago. An old truck blown up by the police still sits in the middle of the woods rusting away. It is this same land where Jeremy spent his mornings sitting in a deer stand.
While some were born into it, or had the gene, hunting was not in my DNA, and the way I saw it reserved exclusively for the people of the world who had trailers, and who liked to put old cars as yard ornaments in the front lawn. Deer jerky and venison makes Jeremy drool, while I’d be fine and happy with a Bobboli pizza. I dismissed Jeremy, went on to college, got married, moved to Colorado, seemed very fine with how things were turning out, apart from my past, and all that sort of stuff. I didn’t see my need for rednecks, or this hunting thing—until the evangelism of Big Bulls came. I was about to experience in the best explanation of words—hunting erection. Or as some call it, Buck Fever.
The video didn’t start that way. I was quite skeptical of it. I watched as what appeared to be a classic scene of Bubba, and his buddy filming an elk hunt in Colorado with poor video work, a shaky camera, and horrible wind blowing into the audio that made my head spin. It appeared homemade, and while their best attempts had all the expectations of some southern drawls that I had known so well that bordered the towns around me growing up.
But as I started watching, I was blown away by these massive creatures they were stalking, the structure and size of them, like horses roaming wild around backcountry grasslands and deep timber. They were magnificent. Large and mystical animals with the males having these massive antlers extending in all directions. And the men, the guides who were talking seemed to understand the animals and the land, and how the wind would affect their approach. They would share secrets, and this amount of knowledge that was like some great teacher of wisdom, like Gandalf talking to Frodo but about hunting. I kinda got into it. And then they started blowing in tubes, and mimicking this bellowing sound that drew them closer.
These giant bull elk were bugling back and forth, to these men blowing in plastic tubes as if they were having a conversation. The elk drew closer, slowly approaching. I started moving closer to the screen as well, inching nearer, while I waited and wondering what’s next.
Then there was silence. The rifle was raised. Then a shot. And then all of a sudden, the men were staring at each other. Faces of ghastly horror or amazement. Eyes were wide. Mouth was open. Their hands were extended out to each other within seconds of the shot. These burly men looked like little school boys who had just been given extra time for recess. These burly men who we would have type cast as emotionless brutes of another era with their country accents, and sausage gravy biscuits still in their beards were now not only acting like kids, they had just turned jumped genders and looked like little school girls jumping at each other. They were frantic. Almost dancing, and hugging, and smiling. It was everything these men were not supposed to be doing considering their personality and what I had thought of them. But they kept trying to squeeze each other, every part of their body hugging and extracting love or happiness between them. Then, Will. The guy who shot the elk started crying, broke down with emotion to his camera guy, sharing what he was feeling.
I sat there, and could not believe what I was witnessing. Like I had seen alients. I was like… what is going on here? Looking at PJ a bit funny. Should we turn this off?
As I left his house, and had days to play the scenes over, and over, I knew I had just witnessed something deep. And as weird as it sounded—very spiritual. I don’t know what it was, I didn’t have words, or great thoughts, but there was something in it that I wanted. Something the man shared. Something the elk had awakened in me. Along with the land. The camo. The gun, and all the hugging. I started thinking…
I wanted to hunt.