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by Gene Hill | Nov 19, 2020 | BIRD HUNTING, HUNTING
Feeling Guilty


It seems to add up that men and women, no matter what their age, who take a great deal of pleasure in the out-of-doors, at the very least discover something about themselves.
The talk had turned in the dwindling hours of the early morning into the sort of conversation we usually reserve for the dwindling hours of the early morning. Questions like “What would you do if you had it all to do over?” kept cropping up, and we fielded them rather ineptly. I think, since we were all shooting buddies, that we had more than a small sense of guilt.

The time we spent around the house doing yard chores and fooling with the kids, like most other fathers seem to do, was shamefully scant. Our houses were sparsely furnished with what seemed to be second-hand furniture. Our wives made most of their clothes or borrowed from each other. And so it went—I’m sure I don’t have to tell you. It sort of added up to the fact that if the movies were casting for an all-American family man, none of us need apply. The hours spent with the family seemed to always be at field trials, trap shoots, duck hunting, and chatting with Daddy while he runs up half a case of trap loads.

We got to feeling pretty sorry for the small folks we were supposed to be raising and setting good examples for. It got worse for me when a much-mended chair broke for the hundredth time. Rising to get some glue I had in the gun closet, I glimpsed again at the blued barrels and glistening walnut stocks of enough money to buy a good sofa and a fairly decent rug and a new stove for the kitchen.

The thing that we all were thinking, but none of us wanted to be the first to talk out loud about, was that none of our families really seemed to mind. Oh, now and then one of the wives would throw some kind of a fit, but it never seemed to be all that serious. Our women all knew how to shoot and seemed to enjoy it. So did all the kids that were big enough. One thing all the kids did know about were animals. Wild and domestic. They knew the ducks and how to handle the duck dogs. They were respectful of guns and admiring of the men who handled them exceptionally well. They enjoyed the people at shoots and field trials, and vice versa. They knew how to pluck birds, and some were turning into more than passable game cooks. But most important of all, none of them were less than fine human beings.
It seems to add up that men and women, no matter what their age, who take a great deal of pleasure in the out-of-doors, at the very least discover something about themselves. That they aren’t the only apple in the orchard. That sportsmanship is by and large another word for good manners. And that very few things that are too easy to come by are much worthwhile. In short, we decided— not very profoundly, I’m afraid—that as a way of passing our few allotted hours, our kind of life had quite a bit to recommend it. I found a little piece from Thoreau that seemed to sum it up a bit more nicely than we had: “I went into the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to confront only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
Editor’s Note: “Feeling Guilty,” is a selection from Gene Hill’s A Hunter’s Fireside Book.
 
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