Saturday, July 28, 2007

I hate Bambi: Deer, Farming, Suburbanization

Seriously, I've never understood the appeal of that film.

So there's a Commercial Appeal article today about a farmer in Shelby County shooting 40 deer in defense of his cotton crop. He had applied for and received a permit to do so. At least a 30% damage to his cotton was noted by the appropriate authorities. The area of land the guy rents to grow cotton on is 200 acres. The neighbors are, of course, in an uproar whining abut how they "don't like to deer slaughtered" and "brutality."

So some of the things this bloke was up to strike me as less than well thought out. Just dragging all the corpses into a wood and leaving them to rot, for one. There should be a better system in place to deal with that issue. But really, it's the little suburbanite residents that I have no sympathy for. Overpopulation of deer is an actual problem. Yes, death is brutal and it freaking happens. Deal.

While I've never been hunting myself, I grew up in the middle of a community that hunts. And hunts in closer proximity to houses than this fellow was. (A neighboring family interrupted Thanksgiving dinner because a small herd of deer had wandered into the field out back.) Sure, there could be safety concerns to this, but we knew not to go out to play in the woods without at least having on brightly colored clothing. If my parents knew someone was out hunting in a certain area (we leased back lots to hunters) we were not allowed to go out into that lot to play. Simple as that. Further, communication happens in farming communities. One neighbor who hunted raccoons would knock on our front door fairly frequently after dark to say that his dogs had followed a coon onto out property, would it be okay to go after it?

So, in the clash of cultures, I really don't have sympathy for the suburbanites who are moving into "the country." Yeah, life's more brutal out here. You might drive down the road and see a calf who died laying on the shoulder waiting for the dead wagon to come pick him up. You might hear gunshots because Billy Bob and Bubba are going hunting and their land abuts yours. Or because you moved next door to my grandfather, and if you are a critter you shouldn't expect to mess with my grandfather's crops and get away with it. (If you are a human, lock your car doors or you'll go out one morning and find two or three plastic shopping bags of sweet corn and tomatoes -- its a risky business living near my grandfather.) Your kids will encounter dead things and dying much earlier than they will if you keep them in an actual suburb. (They might encounter it at school on an agsci class field trip to see a hog slaughtered, or when they are assigned to bring in a dead squirrel to learn taxidermy. Or when they open the freezer in the ag shop and find the intact roadkill that the teacher keeps on hand for students who can't bring their own critter corpse.) You will need to pay attention to what you're neighbors are doing -- like as not, they'll be happy to keep you informed, if you ask them -- and instruct your children accordingly. Wear something with bright colors, and unless Dick Cheney came to visit, your kid should be fine. Besides, deer hunters are normally out at dawn and at dusk, not the middle of the afternoon.

If you want to live in the country, live in the country -- there's lots of things I like about it. Quiet. Knowing what I'm eating and how it was slaughtered. The neighbors dropping off part of the mess of fish they caught at the river. Well water with high iron content to keep the mild anemia I think have under control. My tree forts. Seeing deer and other critters that aren't road kill. Peaches that freaking taste right!

But if you want something sanitized and clean, the country is not the place for you and your escapism. Real human society is probably not the place for you. With some massive systematic restructuring society would be a lot cleaner, but you can't do that while trying to create an escapist existence in the "country." And certainly not if you think a fellow shooting some deer is the gun crime worthy of complaining about. Particularly, when your little housing development likely contributed to the greater strain on his crops. Reality. Deal with it. If you don't like it, change the system that creates the problems instead of just trying to run away from them and creating more problems somewhere else.


Dw3t-Hthr said...

In the suburban/bordering on farmland area where my father lives, one of the higher-risk factors in death/injury situations is "Hit a deer with the car".

A friend of mine crankily refers to them as "rats with antlers".

Meanwhile, on a tangent, this:
If you are a human, lock your car doors or you'll go out one morning and find two or three plastic shopping bags of sweet corn and tomatoes -- its a risky business living near my grandfather.

reminds me of a comment my ex made recently, something along the lines of quoting his mother-in-law as saying, "People who buy zucchini in the grocery store must have no friends at all!"

WordK said...

Oh, yes, hitting a deer with your car. They aren't so cute and precious when a buck is struggling in your windshield about to gore you with its antlers. Which for the deer who are hit because their habitat is now criss-crossed by roads, it's a far crueler death than being shot by a hunter with any skill whatsoever. Honestly, the best thing for the deer and other critters would be to stop building sprawling housing developments.

Grocery store zucchini is unfortunately a now necessary evil in my life... *sighs*

Zan said...

Sounds just like where I grew up and where my parents still live. One benefit is that you never, ever have to lock your doors. If you come home to find your door slightly ajar, no one worries about it, because it probably means someone stopped by to see you and drop off whatever they grew in their garden this year. (This year, my parents are the providers of corn. Their corn crop is HUGE. And oh, my, gods does fresh corn taste like heaven.)

I personally am not great at living in the country, not for any of the reasons you cited, but because I need more people around me. I need easier access to things I need, like doctors and medicine. But I don't understand people who move to the country and then expect it to be just like the city. It's not. If it was, it would be called the CITY. Gah.

My family are hunters. Everything they killed, we ate. Nothing was wasted and there wasn't any of this 'going to kill just to kill' mentality. Everyone in my family learned gun safety as a child. Everyone learned really early that during hunting season, you don't go wandering off into the woods without a nice bright orange vest on. And hey, we had plenty of those to go around.

It's nice knowing that you can go outside at midnight if you can't sleep and count the stars and no one is going to molest you. If it gets too hot in the summer, you can toss a matress on the front lawn and sleep there and hey, you'll be just fine. The dogs will keep you company, so you might wake up with fleas, but that's about all the danger you're in.