Monday, January 03, 2011

A confessional history lesson: on interdependence, reciprocity & proof

It is the New Year, and I am all for a bit of stock-taking and cleaning out the closet, some musing and reminiscing, and perhaps even some meddling. I note that multiple posts have gone up, been commented on, and have come down (perhaps they end up in a lock-box on YouTube- special handshake only, or on the Solo Grouser blog...). This has been noted by other Grousers as well. One Grouser was in the middle of watching the latest Ballet Boy-esque, mealy-mouth criticaster, greedy's greatest block-buster when it suddenly disappeared! But I saw it, and the highly ethical comments, and I am in a mood to bury a hatchet, one way or the other.

So this post is wordy. And long-winded. And there are no cartoons. My apologies in advance. I hope to dispense with a facile bully-pulpit and a large blind spot (for the non -gender confused wordsmiths, facile means: Appearing neat and comprehensive by ignoring the complexities of an issue; superficial),while at the same time, fixing something, or at least setting facts straight, once and for all.

The following is both a confession and a history lesson that apparently is needed.

The bottom line is, sometimes I feel guilty about the fact that I facilitated a reality where many of my out-of-town friends hunt my neighbor's properties, even when I am not with them. I worry that those neighbors accommodate this situation because they are, in fact, very generous and big-hearted people. I worry that such an arrangement is not fair, and that such unfairness may jeopardize important elements of interdependence in my community. I am sure those friends would say that I should not worry. That is why I count them as such good friends. And yet, I do worry.

My continued emphasis on reciprocity comes from an honest concern about fairness and interdependence. Before I came to Canoga-land, I counted some of the original "5 smart guys" my friends. Since I met them in 2001, they have become some of the best friends a guy could have. When I arrived in Canoga-land in 2002, I met some other great people through Mike O'Connor, who taught me as much about ducks as Ernie has taught me about geese (in truth, they tolerated me because they loved my dog Fiona--just ask them).

My neighbors (Ernie, O'Connor, David, Robert, and Brent) were and are very generous with me here in my neighborhood when it comes to hunting, farming, or other neighborliness (like when Mo was hurt-these neighbors and friends met every imaginable need, like I hope to do for them some day). It is my neighbors/friends who originally hosted a complete stranger in Criticaster/ Greedy/Ballet Boy (on my request) and others at their hunting spots, or their farms. My Canoga-land neighbors have become some of your (original 5 smart guys) friends--that is great. We've all become Grousers of a sort. That truly makes me happy. But I live here in Canoga-land, and while some Grousers do, many, most of you don't. The Canoga-land denizens are all people that I deal with all year long, not just two weeks of hunting season. Like it or not, there is a give and take, there is reciprocity, everywhere in the world.

There are two coinciding historical events that complicate, or at least add complexity to this; (1) my decision to strike out on my own to hunt waterfowl so as not to burden my neighbors and friends with greater numbers of hunters and decreased satisfaction regarding calling, decision-making, etc., and (2) my good fortune in having been invited to hunt the Morehouse baitponds by the property owner.

There was a time when repeated complaints of "too many people" came from the land of the dozer pile, and "too much calling." Being the newcomer, and sensitive to the wishes of the elders in my community, and not insignificantly, the owners of the location and decoys for field hunting geese, I gave thought to how I might go on my own. I spoke of this conundrum with Eric, the very first person I met here in Canoga-land, who hunted only a few times at the dozer pile. We decided it would be best for all parties involved if Eric and I joined forces and struck out on our own. We invested in our own rig, pooled our decoys and invested in more, and secured properties other than my own property, mostly away from where my neighbors liked to hunt.

An exception to "away from where my neighbors like to hunt" is the location of the Morehouse baitponds. It is right next door to the dozer pile. I am fortunate to have been invited by the owner of the Morehouse bait ponds (Marty) to be one of the few people that have permission to hunt there, along with Eric, who happens to be my hunting partner, friend, and right-hand man to Marty. Marty enjoyed a memorable opening day hunt with me in one of my duck blinds on Cayuga Lake--come to think of it, so did my good friend Ballet Boy, the same day.

That exception, the fact that Eric and I can hunt the Morehouse ponds, has caused problems for me (and certainly Eric, too), since I can't give other friends permission to hunt there. I have permission to be there, but not to bring in others. So, between the original problem of too many hunters and decreased satisfaction, and the ensuing conflict over access/privilege regarding the Morehouse ponds, it was clearly best not to take advantage of the goose hunting wonder that is the dozer pile. Why? Because it doesn't seem fair. I care about that. This decision was not without its downsides, in that certain social rituals would be missed, like the post-hunt campfires (which have become more infrequent in any case).

So, prior to whatever it is that Ballet Boy is inadvertently or purposefully stirring up in my community, the situation was this:

* My friends and neighbors from anywhere, including the southern end of the lake, have a standing invitation to hunt my blinds in Canoga Marsh. Most have taken advantage of that and I hope will continue to do so. Is there reciprocity expected? Certainly. Most everyone who hunts those blinds participate in it's maintenance and upkeep, including camouflaging it and decoys.

* I have a standing invitation to hunt the dozer pile with Ernie and O'Connor (unless there are too many other people, like family members, which should always have priority).

* Mobile field hunts coordinated and hosted by the Illegal/Cagey gang are usually limited to four people, a number we feel is optimal for concealment and effectiveness/efficiency of setting up and taking down the spread. On occasion we accept invitations to other properties to double up spreads, which may mean more people.

* Deer hunting and turkey hunting is different.

So, what I have learned while living here in Canoga-land is that reciprocity is a good and worthy thing. It is a cornerstone of interdependence. It is how agrarian communities operate, how rural communities stick together. The reciprocity remarks I have made to Ballet Boy are to be taken as gentle reminders of how the system actually works. Yes, everybody seems so generous! Thank an ancient agrarian cultural construct called reciprocity for that. Now, so that unbelievers who are experts in ethics and right and wrong living can feel more comfortable with this history lesson, here is a wordy excerpt:

Independent thinking alone is not suited to interdependent reality. Independent people who do not have the maturity to think and act interdependently may be good individual producers, but they won't be good leaders or team players. They're not coming from the paradigm of interdependence necessary to succeed in ... organizational reality.

Whatever the reason for the skewed discourse on goose hunting (which has gone a bit beyond friendly competition by anyone's measure and can arguably be looked upon as fomentation of animosity and side-taking) I want to distance myself from all of this and say publicly that I am deeply grateful to Mike Ernst, Mike O'Connor, Brent Murray, and Robert and David Thompson for their generosity to me, my family, and even my friends since 2002. This extends beyond hunting, and all of these men and their families know what I am talking about. I know that each of you would brush this all off and dismiss it, saying that my friends are your friends and are welcome anytime. That is why I am thanking you.

To my friends from out of the immediate area, I love it that you love it here. I love hunting with you here, or anywhere. I love it that you are friends with my neighbors! I love friendly competition, and grousing as much as the next guy. Hell, I love YOU guys. Ballet Boy, you know I have skin that is plenty thick (Rhino, elephant?). I know you do too. I know I am an interloper to Grouse Camps and Cornell and all that you hold sacred, and that legitimacy is negotiated. I know sometimes it makes you as mad as Hitler, er, I mean hell. But all of that aside, let me know if I am ever messing with your community and your place in it. Rattle a bit, like I have been rattling. And try to tread lightly, and not on me.

I'd like to bury the hatchet on this over-exaggerated and overly-sensationalized-by-media mogul-Tantillo rift, and I would certainly like to get back to the quaint notion of friends hunting. I am sure that my sentiments will be satirized once again, and that is fine. But I said what I mean, and this post won't be taken down, privatized, etc. at least not by me. I may not throw a journal, but I will certainly let the words stick, come what will, cost what it may.

I was asked by Jim once to comment on why I hunt, and I said: I for one don't hunt to prove anything, but to get back to an elusive something. Thanks to this landscape, and unconditional friendships that solidify within them, I always feel a level of fulfillment, of being "at my limit" in the satiated sense. I am proud of my farm, and my hunting, and my friends. Viva la Canoga.

Perhaps I was wrong, perhaps there is proving. Perhaps the "hero of every hunting story" problem that Rich described is a reaction to the fear of not being a hero in any story at all. Perhaps hunting helps us prove that we can be heroes, through mastery and persistence. Perhaps, when the noise of "constructive criticism" and the onslaught of suspicion by even your closest allies that you really are illegitimate, a fraud, a fake, an imposter and interloper, becomes almost deafening, perhaps it is then that the proof, the antithesis, the null hypothesis, is in the well placed shot and all that went in to it and becomes of it. The irony is that perhaps that cannot be shared or truly appreciated except for by a very few.

All well and good.

I want to end this though. I would not have posted the picture of opening day waterfowling had I known it would lead to these perturbations. I regret it now, and all that has gone with it. There shouldn't be hard feelings about the privilege of hunting. Life is way too short for that in my opinion.

So, Ernie and O'Connor, I am sorry about any rift. I "left the party" because I thought it was what was required. Afterall, you weren't the first Grousers to have kicked me off into the stormy sea with the infamous phrase "You're on your own!" My absence now should not be taken as a slight, despite all grousing and what not.

JT, despite your acerbic efforts to stir the pot and find enjoyment at others' expense disguised as good clean fun, I love you like a brother. I am absolutely convinced that you understand the difference between personal ribbing and the whole interdependence thing, and that you will respect my feelings about this as a matter of principle.

Finally, let us ponder the words of T. S. Elliot-- "For last year's words belong to last year's language. And next year's words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning."

So I hope to put the so called rift, the worries of reciprocity, and all the rest, to rest, at last. I welcome thoughts on this from those involved.

Anyone else, sorry to have bored you. Happy New Year Grousers.


Anonymous said...

While very wordy, and difficult for me to fully understand each word, I do understand your feelings. I wanted to make a post on the BC hunt club blogspot ( I would have made a link here, but I don't know how to do that) the other day but 2 things stopped me.

The first was the explaination in the header of what and who this group consisted of. This explaination was true at the time I made the blogspot and is still true today. If you could post a connection for us to go to it then it might be appropriate to have us look at it again.

The second was viewing again the very last post that was made by me comming up on almost 2 years ago now. The post was based on my LOVE and loss of my best friend Big Jim. My first love Carol did an excellent job of making a tribute to Jim using the song "That's what friends are for" that stirrs me every time I play it back, ad even now while typing this post. While I know that Jim meant more to me than he did to others, he was the one that taught me the meaning of unselfleshly sharing your friendships with others. Jim always opened his doors to anyone that I called friend and in doing so they too became friends in turn.

That is the key to what you are getting to here. Dispite our good natured picking we are all still friends. Sometimes the picking can hurt the heart dispite our thick skin. Lets all remember Big Jims example and remember to remain freinds forever. There are few things in life that we have total control over but for certain the ones that can mean the most are the friends we choose.

Thanks for getting this issue off your chest and out in the open. I look forward to many mmore happy hunts and days around the campfire, wherever that may be.

Does anyone know how to do spell check on this blog?

Love ya man,

Keith G. Tidball said...

KGT (aka Cagey) said...

Thanks very much Ernie for the kind, understanding and wise words and advice.

Thanks, also, very much JT for the email.

Josh, I appreciated the call a great deal.

Vicar(ious) said...

Keith, thanks for airing this.
The reciprocity thing is a tough nut for an overworked city dweller like me to respond to. I fully realize that I am coming in on your coattails…directly, on Canoga environs and through the friendships that I’ve developed with your Canoga friends: Eric, Ernie, Mike, the Too-Tall Thompsons, Brent, George, etc., etc. You all have developed deep friendships that reflect (but do not depend completely upon) a good functioning system of reciprocity: farm chores, habitat work, traded access, and just plain ol’ being there when needed.
The gender confused wordsmiths call this social capital or other fancified stuff, but the reality for me is that I—by the dubious virtue of my distance--have little to offer in return: a case of beer or bottle of something stronger now and then, some dekes, some labor when the situation arises, and buying more stuff at DU and Kunneytown fundraising parties than I probably should. But Keith is dead right that I (and others) come and go with the seasons, and I am usually not there when hard work needs doing. I really wish that I could offer more. But I don’t live in the country, and am unlikely to offer up a hot new field for geese: hell, as you have all observed, I can’t even find time to clean my shotguns after hunts. All I can ask is that when you need something, call me.
Truth is—and I hope you all realize this already—that I appreciate so d*mn much the opportunity to hunt with all of you—whether tactical 4 man popup blind hunts, or bucketing in to the dozer pile with a cast of thousands. I make no distinction and take no oath of loyalty: as an outsider, with relatively little in my pocket to offer up, I will accept with gratitude what is offered. With respect to the dozer pile, I have for the last couple of years assumed “the more the merrier”, so I apologize if I have assumed incorrectly…and please let me know if this is the case. I have never wanted to overstay my welcome or take for granted.
You guys are some of my very best friends and you keep me sane.

KGT (aka Cagey) said...


Thanks for the reply comment.

I won't speak for Ernie.

You know you are always welcome around here, even if you have to find a spot that isn't in the pre-made play-book for the given day (like the mouth of the creek that one time, or K-town on opening day of deer). The marsh is big, and so is the list of people I like to hunt with. Unlike Ernie (but in part due to his tutelage) I don't subscribe to "the more the merrier." (I subscribe to whatever I believe it takes to be victorious in battle -- as Ernie says, I just want to kill stuff ;)

The reciprocity/interdependence thing was a response to the original accusation (which was a response to MY dig on Jim) that started all of this- that Jim was "uninvited" to the opening day hunt, a hunt that Eric and I were invited to participate in on property that we don't have exclusive access to.

The basic point I was raising had to do with with me feeling that Jim was crossing a line in his parodies and ridicule, hitting below the belt as it were, mainly because I felt he was creating divided loyalties and sowing seeds of animosity among my neighbors, which potentially makes me AND my neighbors uncomfortable. In his defense, Jim is a wit, and usually very adept at creeping up to but not crossing these lines. I feel that these latest were personal attacks that certainly positioned Jim well as the jester, but caused harms that were unjustified. I believe Jim did not intend to be truly hurtful, and I also believe the "interdependence" dimension had not occurred to him. He may also not have realized how sensitive the "rift" issue was, and perhaps was hitting more of a button than he realized. This is of course all speculation, and we would need to hear from Jim on that.

This New Years confessional was not an effort to change much of anything- more to clear the air and let us all think about the beauty of this social network, and its complexities.

I also meant what I said in terms of SELF-reflection... about hunting, heroes, proof, and waiting too damn long to clear the air.

Rich, or any Grouser, you are ordered to continue to come to Canoga Creek! Let's just be friends, be friendly, no matter what, and avoid stuff that creates too much dissonance. I agree with Ernie that we should "...all remember Big Jim's example and remember to remain friends forever."

Dr. Dirt said...

Oy fella:

And who said hunters don't have feelings? As someone who now spends most of his time alone with dog and gun, I long for the days of shared hunts. Not just the camaraderie, but the moments when emotions flared. That's friendship. Twenty years later I still consider the guys who insulted me, stomped on my pride and stole my grouse as my closest friends. Those who really knew and know me. It ain't easy. In the end that inner jamoke always seems to escape. Even so, I really appreciated and enjoyed the rawness of the post. That's living. Hope it all works out.