So I finally go over to Hamlin’s house. Been watching him avoid me since January after that time when I heard gunshots out back and then a pack of yipping and yowling coon dogs squirrelled up into my yard and put my cat under the deck and it ain’t come back out yet, just crouches back in there trembling like a cottonwood leaf in high wind.
Ask if he is pissed at me; Hamlin won’t look me in the eye. Busies himself with slicing up some kind of meat on his kitchen counter. Replies no, not pissed, just disappointed. Says he and Gil have been waiting for the weather to clear and then go down into my woodlot and take down their tree stands. Says he understood from Gil after I sicked the sheriff on him and his dogs that I didn’t want either one of them hunting back in there any more.
The conversation is mainly one-sided, Hamlin mumbling in his beard over the goddamn slicing and dicing on the kitchen counter. I guess it is his lunch, but the meat was more like ham-coloured chunks of road kill than anything appetising. I think the guy will eat anything swallowable.
I tell Hamlin I was here to make whatever amends I could, that my problem with Gil has nothing to do with him. Reiterate that the original agreement was to let him and Gil bow hunt down there, in season or out, what the hell.
And again remarked – as I have numerous times, as Odrey has many times, both of us mentioning this as politely as possible over the years when the moron comes out while we have guests over on our deck, and commences target practice with his .22, or just eases out onto his back porch, anytime he pleases, to plunk at starlings who he seems to take umbrage with when they settle on his lawn en masse to forage in his goddamn crabgrass – remarked again that me and Odrey plain don’t counsel guns going off, puts us on the ceiling (and didn’t do much for my poor ninety-year-old mother when we brought her down from Bide-A-Wee Manor one fine spring afternoon, stuck her out on the deck in her wheelchair, and Hamlin, by God, leans out a side window and bags a groundhog about to root in his fresh-planted pea patch).
Tell him again that I certainly can’t request he not shoot vulnerable critters on his own property – but that I never intended to have armed to the teeth hunters and obnoxious dogs running all over mine.
Still not looking me in the eye. Standing there knifing up that bloody carcass on his kitchen counter. Mutters two or three times as I am just about to leave: ‘So we can still bow hunt?’
‘Yeah, Ham,’ I say. ‘Ambush those little future venison steaks all you want. Just no firing squad shit.’
Ha. I knew calling his macho hunting bullshit ‘ambushing’ would set him off. I high-step out his door just as he flips me the bird and go back home. But hell, I figure all these two hilljacks wanted out of me was a private place to skulk through the honeysuckle tangles and blow away every innocent creature they could crosshair in their gunsights. A personal Happy Hunting Ground where these clowns could fumigate the great outdoors with clouds of cordite and get off on the slamming echo of shotgun detonations. In some kind of redneck rite of passage I ain’t comprehending. At all. And since that privilege (which was never extended but merely assumed, without verification) has been revoked … well, now my neighbour of ten years is ‘disappointed’.
Next day sounds like the Battle of Perryville being re-enacted down below the back forty. People just have a built-in refusal to understand your directives, even if you spell it out by tattooing the message on the backsides of their eyelids. They won’t listen; can’t. Ears don’t work nowadays and the reasoning portion of people’s brains is so atrophied with non-use it makes no difference to try and explain or point anything out. May as well remonstrate to the inside of your own arsehole and maybe not even find sympathy there.
It is Hamlin and Gil, both back in there again, getting even I suppose, attuned to that line of mental disablement that I’d be better off assuming for myself.
Throw in a towel or two. Join the crowd. Maybe buy a frickin’ gun.