What follows is a story I refrained from telling for years. The occasion for my reticence is that the tale is somewhat embarrassing to me, but now, having arrived at an age where it is difficult to discomfort me, I shall tell you of the days in my ‘growing up’ place of Stephentown, NY; specifically those days when I most wanted to be an American Indian.
I was twelve, maybe eleven when this desire took root in the deepest part of me. At the time, I did not do drugs or drink alcohol, so I am somewhat adrift as to why my tastes developed the way they did. Now I have nothing whatever against wanting to be an Indian; my concern appends more so on how that urge caused me to act.
At that age, I had a BB gun which I fondly called, “Betsy’ – no doubt owing to Fess Parker’s portrayal of Dan’l Boone on TV. He too owned a rifle named ‘Betsy.’ [I suspect he stole the idea from me.]
So, I would leave the house, shootin’-iron in hand, dressed formally for the day: blue jeans, T-shirt, and moccasins, and walk well into our eighty-eight acres of land. I would watch all about me to see that I wouldn’t inadvertently run up on a stranger – or worse yet – a family member. One last furtive look around, then I would undress down to my underwear. [I wouldn’t fully undress; I wasn’t that wild!]
Before I hid my formal attire under a bush, I would pull from my jeans pocket…
Now here’s where it gets embarrassing…
Out of my pocket, I would pull two cloth diapers sewn end to end to make a double-length cloth [this the unrealized courtesy of my baby brother Bruce.] Remember, in those days there were no disposable diapers, so I snuck two out of the laundry basket, washed them and did my sewing.
Once deep in the woods, and the certainty of utter solitude confirmed, I would straddle the cloths, then use my belt to hold them up after the fashion of a breechcloth. The belt was a necessity as no self-respecting plains warrior would shuffle off to the hunt with his loincloth around his ankles, notwithstanding current fashion trends to that effect.
Then, it was off to the hunt! A bare chest, diaper breechcloth, store-bought moccasins, and a BB gun. A perfect Geronimo, that was me!
I had read from books how to walk without a sound, toeing in on every step so as to be silent as a spirit. Thus I would begin my hunt.
Now I wasn’t hunting so mundane a critter as a bird, a squirrel or a rabbit. No, I was hunting Kodiak Bears, Mountain panthers, and yes, even the occasional Sasquatch which might have taken up residence on our home plot.
Although light of firepower, I reasoned that a well-placed BB would do the job as well as a 30-06. Honor prods me to confess, following exhaustive research on our area there were no bear, cougars or Yeti recently reported, thus my courage was cheaply purchased.
I don’t recall when or why my desire to be a mighty, half-nude hunter fell away from me. It might have been caused by girls, sports or, dare I say it? Some nascent maturity?
So now I rehab wildlife, and I am mightily grateful for all the animals I shot at and missed during those hunting forays.
People ask me if I am against legal hunting. My answer is: For the most part no. I’m not much in favor of bow-hunting, too much chance of losing a wounded critter, one in pain and perhaps a slow death. Yet, I see the necessity to keep animal and certain bird populations under control, lest more of them die of disease or starvation. The dying of a living animal in the wild is not one we humans would wish to participate in.
My only regret is that hunters usually harvest the best of a lot [usually for ‘bragging rights’]. Nature takes the weak, the young, the infirm. So I’d have to say that’s my only real objection.
Overall, though, I’m glad I grew out of that phase in my life. Now in my sixties, I’m too old to be traipsing around the woods in diapers.
Though – depending on how my mind holds up- I suppose the day could come again.
– Lucky Garvin