The last few days have yielded quite a few story ideas, not the least of which involves strangers with high-powered rifles. Coyote hunters colonized my road on Saturday. I’d seen them in previous years in other local areas, but this was the first time I’d seen them so close to home. I’d been fighting prejudice against them for a couple of years—one of them ran me off the road as I was travelling to my mother’s house and didn’t bother to stop and help, which meant that my then-two-year-old son and I were stuck in the ditch until $40 and a tow truck finally came to free us. To add to my righteous indignation, the coyote hunter kept driving slowly down the road, which meant he was within sight for at least five minutes but couldn’t be bothered to stop his snail-paced from-the-road hunting. As a result of that experience, my visceral inclination is to detest coyote hunters on sight, although they haven’t directly bothered me since then.
I’m ashamed of that inclination, though, so when hunters’ pickups started appearing on our road, I was hoping I’d be virtuous enough to politely express my concern that they might accidentally shoot my small gray dog and in the process discover that they were decent, friendly people who were simply carrying on a family tradition and/or earnestly trying to help farmers by eradicating area coyotes. These hunters, however, did nothing to further my prejudice-elimination project. One went tromping along the easement at the edge of my yard and let off a resounding shot right behind my family’s woodshed; the sight of a stranger with a high-powered rifle so close to my property—and hence to my child and dog—was extremely unnerving for me. Since he presumably had permission from my neighbor to hunt on his land, and since he was just over the property line from my house, there wasn’t much to be done, though. The nameless shooter had tromped back to his pickup and departed by the time I could dry my hair and get outside, so I thought maybe he’d declared the cornfield behind my house unsatisfactory and departed for good.
No such luck. When I opened my garage so I could leave for work, there were two pickups parked in front of my house, one of them blocking about ¾ of my driveway. I had only ten minutes to get to work, so I wasn’t able to talk to the one hunter who was still in his truck. I called my husband from work, though, and asked him to talk to the hunters. In my feminine mind, this meant approaching them, politely informing them of the presence of my small gray dog, and as politely asking them to not cross our yard or block our driveway. However, to Paul’s obviously masculine mind, this meant telling a hunter to “Get the hell off my property.” Fortunately, Paul had already called the sheriff and given him the license plate numbers, so if the hunters were to retaliate, at least the crime would be easily solvable. Even so, I was horrified that my husband thought it was a good idea to antagonize an armed stranger. (Here’s where I find out if Paul’s been reading my blog; I can expect a heartfelt defense of his actions if he has.)
Now, two days later, the coyote hunters have yet to reappear; I don’t know if they were done hunting anyway, if they decided this road wasn’t worth the trouble, or if they’re huddled in a bar hatching their vengeance, but at least the area has been free of gunshots since Saturday. They did leave a metaphorical footprint, though, in addition to the literal ones they left when they walked across our yard. This morning, my son, who has always been a car guy and has never shown an interest in firearms, found a metal tool and repurposed it as his gun. He claimed he was hunting foxes to prevent them from eating our dog, although he held his “gun” more like a shoulder-fired rocket launcher. He then told me that the “Master” showed him how to use guns. I don’t know who the “Master” is—Sage couldn’t really elaborate, except that it was a pretend man who told the gun users what to do. I’m torn between being fascinated by the psychology behind his statements and horror at the Invisible Dictator/Pretend Gun combination.
I’d been caught even more off guard by this disturbing juxtaposition because immediately before he started playing guns, he’d been pretending to do “dishes” (old, now-scentless cinnamon sticks) in a “sink” (a plastic tray that had once held store bought cookies). I’d been congratulating myself on raising a son who enjoyed cleanliness and displayed precocious environmentalism in his clever repurposing of potential garbage. The “Master” with his guns was a harsh reminder of how quickly Sage can grow away from me. I’m chagrinned by this realization. Although it was inevitable that I would have it sooner or later, I still take my meaningless revenge on the hunters and their guns by rooting vehemently for the coyotes.