December 27, 2006

Fates of the Famous VI

Category: Entertainment — Cranky @

Skipper, Wonder, and Pouncer

In the Christmas of 1819, the reindeer lineup pulling Santa’s sleigh had not yet reached its classic format. Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen and Comet were present, but bringing up the rear were two stalwart veterans, Skipper and Wonder, and a single new recruit, Pouncer.

Pouncer was brought in to fill a space left by a retiree, and he had a lot of heart. He threw himself into his work with abandon… perhaps too much so. He was desperately trying to please Santa, but he broke stride too often, became tangled in his traces, and quickly became disruptive to the cohesive unit that was required when dealing with the vast bulk of the sleigh.

Santa left it to his lead reindeer, Dasher, to bring the newcomer in line, but he was not a forgiving driver, and his frustration showed. Many of the perks enjoyed by the reindeer vanished, and morale was low. Dasher increased the pressure on the team as a whole, working them harder and harder.

One silent night the team covered their hooves in thick layers of cloth, waylaid Pouncer in his stall, and beat him severely. If Santa noticed the bruises and the limp, he stayed mute on the subject. Pouncer became despondent and withdrawn.

On Christmas Eve, with the team operating poorly, Santa attempted a landing on a roof in Detroit, Michigan. To this day nobody knows if Pouncer made a mistake, or if he simply chose to break formation, but the wreck was spectacular. Santa bandaged the reindeer as best he could, but in the end he would take the rifle from under the seat and dispatch Skipper and Wonder with a methodical calmness that spoke of many years of dealing with work animals. Pouncer died on impact.

By the next year, with the introduction of Cupid, Dunder, and Blixem, the team would reunite and solidify, becoming a single unit. Henry Livingson Jr. would immortalize the lineup in his 1823 classic, “T’was the Night Before Christmas”. Clement Moore would go on to modify their names for aesthetic reasons, and people would sing about “Donner and Blitzen”.

In 1939 the “Rudolph Incident” would again divide the team.

Cranky

December 18, 2006

The Squirrel and I

Category: Life — Cranky @

I come from a hunting family. My father hunts every year, and I’m the lucky recipient of jerky made from a variety of animals. I’m a remorseless meat-eater, and so shall I remain, regardless of the swings of societal acceptance. We weren’t a wealthy family, and when I was a child moose meat was a staple food. I approve of hunting. Having said that…

I don’t remember exactly how old I was when the squirrel and I encountered each other. If I had to guess, I’d say I was somewhere around eleven. That may be the only detail of the story that escapes my memory, though, as the rest is clear as a bell.

I owned a pellet gun at the time. I had shot at birds before, and I remember a crow that I’m certain I hit in the chest once. I heard the impact, and the bird merely looked at me. The pellets were unable to penetrate the feathers at a distance.

We were camping at Fork Lake, and I looked up from the fire to see the squirrel entering my tent. I picked up the pellet gun, excited, and I walked carefully over and entered the tent, zipping it closed behind me. The squirrel was hiding behind some blankets, and I could see its hindquarters.

I carefully aimed at the squirrel, and I pulled the trigger. The squirrel leapt into the air, kicking its back leg out. In a panic it ran and hid again, and I reloaded. I shot it again, and again it leapt up, struck.

I began to feel uneasy. This wasn’t working the way it was supposed to. So I aimed at the trapped squirrel, and again I pulled the trigger. It squealed, and limped around. Clearly I had hurt it. But I was beginning to realize this experience was not going well.

I shot it several more times, and it was fully terrified and hurt. Finally after at least ten shots, it lay in the open, gasping and staring.

My desire to hurt this creature was long gone, but I also knew I had already passed the point of no return. It was too hurt to run, and I had to finish what I started.

It took five more shots point blank to the head to kill it, and it was the emptiest victory I have ever experienced. I wasn’t proud of the act. It was pointless, and it hurt me to think of the terror I had inflicted on this poor, simple animal. We routinely fed the squirrels sunflower seeds, and this one had probably been lulled by our implicit peace treaty. I had arbitrarily destroyed it, and for nothing.

For reasons that escape me, I took the dead squirrel across the gravel road to an abandoned schoolhouse and placed the carcass alongside the wall. I didn’t go back until the next year. Naturally it was gone.

That experienced cemented some views I hold to this day. I believe it is a hunters responsibility to make the kill as clean as possible. Hunting a squirrel with a pellet gun was inhumane and cruel. I believe that an animal hunted must either pose an immediate threat, or it must be eaten. No exceptions. I believe trophy hunting for its own sake as a vanity sport is immoral.

I don’t agree with people who say hunting is evil or wrong. Other animals hunt with claws and teeth. We have neither – but we have our brains. With that advantage we created the guns that gave us the edge as carnivores. Hunting is never about fairness, despite what the critics have claimed. Somebody always has the edge.

But even when we hunt and kill, we should be decent about it.

Cranky

December 12, 2006

A Little Icelandic Content

Category: Entertainment — Cranky @

In the year 980, Erik the Red was sailing with his family along the coast of Iceland. He looked up in the sky with a concerned expression.

“I think it’s going to snow.”

He looked at his brother, Rudolph, who casually glanced at the sky, and replied, “No. It’s going to rain.”

“You’re a fool,” replied Erik, “It’s going to snow.”

“Rain.”

“Snow.”

Finally, with an exasperated look on his face, Erik turned to his wife, and said, “What do you think?”

She looked at him, sighed, and said, “Rudolph the Red knows rain, dear.”

Cranky

*Vaguely recalled from memory after many years – not my joke originally.