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.