After I awaken, I like to lie on my sofa, pillows the way I want them, cup of coffee within reach, and, regrettably, cigarettes. My black cat curls up on my lap; my German Shepherd lies nearby. That’s when and how I like to read.
I positioned myself so that, above my page, I catch flutters of birds at my feeder. I watch the antics of chipmunks and squirrels below them. Often I see wildlife crossing the bluff beyond: deer, turkeys, foxes. Especially now that the leaves have fallen. Especially now that it’s hunting season and the deer are scared and hiding on private land. I’ve seen them peering fearfully around my house at the bluff beyond.
Today as I was reading my New Yorker, I saw two men in camouflage on the bluff. One of them held an arrow, and the other was looking at some leaves. One of them, an inept novice, wounded a deer in Forest Beach Migratory Preserve. They were following the bloody trail of a deer injured via bowhunting, which, regrettably, is legal in the Preserve during a specific time period.
They were bumbling around on an inaccessible bluff, tracking across private property an animal they had cruelly wounded, with the casual insouciance of spoiled teenagers.
I left my vocalizing German Shepherd inside, stood on my patio, and let them have it. “Bellowing” might be an accurate verb for my diatribe about hunting, hunting on private property, their doofus selves trying to kill things with arrows, and etc.
At first, they were dismissive, patronizing, and irritable. Then they realized I meant trouble for them. My main concern was for the deer. I told them they better find it and put it out of its misery.
Then I called the Sheriff. An officer came over. He said that by my words, I allowed those hunters to travel across private property and follow that bloody trail along the “public access” of my road to “harvest the deer,” otherwise it would be “wasted.”
I gathered my wits. I first corrected him about the common misuse of the verb “harvest,” when in fact the meaning is “kill or murder.” I figured the eye-rolling would start there, and it did.
Then I asked what he meant by “wasted,” though of course I already knew. The officer said, “Well, the coyotes and other animals might get it, and he would be robbed of a good meal.” I told him I would rather feed the coyotes than that hunter. They need it more than he does. More eye-rolling of course. Then I corrected him about the road, which is in no way public access. But my main concern was for the suffering of the deer.
The officer was patronizing and dismissive. He kept saying, “That’s your opinion.” Well, precisely, I thought, and I am not being heard.
When he became irritable as well, I called him on it. As he walked back to his “vehicle,” I called to him, “Well, Mr. Sheriff, you work for the hunters, not the residents.”
Then I called his boss to complain about him. I got that same dismissive, patronizing attitude, with added defensiveness about the officer, “one of the best ones I got.” I told him he had adopted an impatient tone.
I kept my voice very quiet—at long last, I have learned how effective that can be. I told him his officer kept saying, “that’s your opinion.” I added “Well, precisely. I have my opinion. I am a property owner here, and they were trespassing. That is fact, not opinion.” When he paused, in that quiet voice, I said “Sir, the officer was patronizing and dismissive. Thank you.” And I hung up.
What’s the point? I guess it’s that no matter how battered and brittle I am, I still have to speak up when necessary. I won’t win the battle, but I have to put up the fight, no matter how futile, with hope, despite evidence to the contrary, that my side will win the war.
Elizabeth G Fagan is a writer and artist who resides in southeastern Wisconsin—a place she calls Lake Michigan’s Left Coast. She’s endured the curse of being a writer since attending a private arts high school in Connecticut, where the bad habit was encouraged. She also became a photographer at that high school. She spent all the time she could in the school’s darkroom, creating black and white images from film. Alas, as a second bad habit acquired. Fagan is passionate about the natural world and its creatures.
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