I wore a t-shirt this morning from an organization which has zero tolerance for animal snares–Painted Dog Conservation. I drove to 711.
(Reminder: I live I very rural Virginia where wildlife and Trump signs are common)
A few men always gather near the coffee counter to talk; it is a routine. Their trucks idle outside and they wear camouflage clothing even when they’re just headed to the store. Ironically, they really do blend in here, especially near the shelves of chips and display of NASCAR paraphernalia.
One of the two noticed my shirt. I was not part of this conversation; just the catalyst:
“Yeah I gotta get rid of my snares.”
“Ain’t using them?”
“Nah. They’re not good. They snap the legs right off the turkey and the damn things get far enough to die where I can’t find them.”
“I saw me some snares got grippers electronically hooked up to know how much to grab to hold them without snapping off the best part.”
“I heard of them. I sure did, down at that show in Richmond.”
“That’s where I saw ’em. They got a device will text me when the snare snaps.”
“Ain’t cheap I’m betting you.”
“Forty or so.”
“Ain’t bad. I’ll have to get some.”
They sipped their coffee. One asked how I was doing and that he liked my shirt. I honestly think he believed the shirt promotes snares. Though to be fair, I moved through swiftly, snaking around the men not in line and not getting coffee, the ones just, well, standing.
One guy to the other guy:
“You ready for deer?”
“Almost. I needs me new collars for the dogs. Something with better range so I can track them right to the kill. I shot me one last year made it a mile before he collapsed. Damn dog collars were out of range and I had to hike out there looking. It was pouring out, like today.”
“Can’t wait to go huntin.”
“Yeah, me too.”
I opened the door to leave and I wished them a good day but they asked me how I liked the snares and what kind I used. Now, when I’m in situations like this I can’t help but feel uncomfortable. I don’t hunt, trap, snare, or in any way harm animals, and I don’t know if that’s because I grew up listening to folk music or because when I was young I fed a deer in Heckscher State Park, but I knew immediately I had nothing constructive to add to the conversation. Instead, I wanted to say that I understand the appeal, the up-before-the-dawn draw of it all, the crouching in nature, rain dripping down my back, or the slick leaves beneath my feet in the quiet stillness of the wilderness when a deer lights out from the brush and stares at me. I get it, but I don’t hunt, and I didn’t know how to tell them about Thoreau and the idea that “many men go fishing all their lives without knowing it’s not the fish they are after.” Instead, I wished them a good day.
“Yeah, you too. See ya out there, brother!” one said. I walked to my car drinking my coffee and eating my empenadas. If you get there early the small breakfast bites are fresh and hot, and the clerk will pick out the ones which are most plump. Three for a dollar.