September 16th, 2008 by Bill Keitel
We’re set up at a street festival (way out west) next to the NRA booth and the folks manning the booth are polite and friendly. I’m an occasional hunter, I have a prized photo of my son and I ….side by side. We are holding our respective shotguns. He holds the third generation prized vintage fowling piece, a double barreled/side by side/ spring trigger 410 shotgun, along with the days bounty of ruffed grouse. An idealic picure father and son, hunters and gatherers, a picture that will remain in my memory as a perfect time. My wife always insists we eat our quarry. We love the hunt…….yet don’t seem to be adept at the culinary arts of cooking wild game. We are in the deep north woods of Minnesota and never have the right ingredients to cook and season it properly. We cook our game, never with the right seasoning or mushroom soup ingredients. Somehow we manage to digest the meal. With all conviction…..we pledge never to ever go grouse hunting again! That pledge usually lasts about 2 or 3 seasons and then we are at it again.
My neighbors in the booth next to us are handing out the “Bill of Rights” and making sure the populace stays vigilant to the cause of gun ownership. The festival we are attending attracts 1,000′s of people and many are given the handout, expressing their unflagging allegiance.
During the course of our weekend I’m asked a few times if I’m a member and if I would like to have this handout. The handout expresses the great concern that we should have regarding any restrictions on guns.
I recognize that this fellow feels he is doing democracy a great service. He must feel he is saving & protecting one of the basic principles of this great nation. He also has never met my friend,….he never will.
My friend spent his life as a hog farmer. Hog farming is not glamorous work. I hope it produced a feeling a accomplishment at the end of the year. It was dirty and smelly work. It was honest work and produced a product that our society needs. The relationship between pigs and humans has been going on for thousands of years. Hogs, chickens and cows make up the majority of meat consumption in this world. Protein packed meat, carnivores like lions spend 2 to 4 hours per week eating. Elephants on the other hand spend up to 20 hours per day seeking enough food to maintain their frames. My friend was a specialist in hogs. I respected him, we toiled together in a small Midwestern community. Recently, after thirty years of toil and sweat……they have saved enough to purchased a home across the street from the lake. After years of effort they now have a home with a view! This spring we attended their daughters graduation, she’s a beauty and she’s headed off to college. Such effort, such toil, such perseverance, nothing was given to them, they all have worked hard, very ,very hard. Dreams come true in small communities…sometimes you just have to work a little harder and wait a little longer. We were honored to be invited to her graduation.
His wife is a graphic artist and dear friend of mine. On a yearly basis we sit down and spend a day or two, producing a full color brochure. We work well together, the end result is a creation that extoles the virtues of this little community. For me its a change of pace, for her…its probably continued toil & perseverance, she seems to enjoy it.
My NRA neighbor asks again if I’m a member? “hey, you know…”The Bill of Rights!” He could have no concept or understand that I’m trying in vain to avoid the topic. He’s a nice friendly guy that is doing something he thinks must be important.
I reflect on a year ago , to this exact day. A day that I remember my hog farming friend leaving on his motorcycle to go south……to a resort community, forty three miles distant. Its a sunny day, the crops are doing just fine, the hogs have been tended and there is a feeling of early summer prosperity in the air. Perfect temperatures, light breezes, a sunny day with few clouds. Each week, he seldom takes more than an afternoon..for himself. His motorcycle allows him to leave his world behind, along with a few friends he makes a trip of a lifetime. Grand adventure or just a pleasurable drive through the croplands. I suspect his ride is a well rewarded respite.
He kicks the ignition on his motorcycle and leaves town.
They enjoy the clean, cool & verdant countryside of early summer in the Midwest, though he would never describe it in such terms!
His small posse of friends motor the countryside, at long last ….taking in the summertime that is so fleeting in the upper midwest. They stop in a small town, turn off the motorcycles, take off their helmets and they hear a strange sound.
Someone says it sounded like a gun shot, though they aren’t certain. The hog farmer starts to list to one side and says…”I think I’ve been shot!” a short hesitation and he tumbles to the ground; that is the end of his life. A 375 Smith and Wesson projectile has just passed directly through his heart.
The trial starts today….it has seen a years worth of delays. The defendant didn’t know the victim. The shot was fired from an incredible distance, yet the projectile met its mark.
At the end of the festival, my neighbor confidently tells me that he has handed out over 1,400 “Bill of Rights” and its been a very good show.