Saturday, September 27, 2008

Plague of the Tourists

Every fall they came, just to stare at leaves. And shoot deer. When you live alongside nature, it’s hard to understand: one - why people travel so far to see it, and two - why they want to kill it. I’m speaking, specifically, of the he-tourist hunters and she-tourist leafers from New York City.

Maybe we only saw one side of the situation. Perhaps there was someone in New York City who needed a break from these obnoxious people and said, “Here’s a gun. Why don’t you go upstate and wander in the woods awhile? Maybe we’ll both get lucky. Oh, and take the missus. She can stare at trees and annoy the locals.”

We lived near enough to the city that we were inundated with city-idiots - it was hard to fathom why we should let certain urban dwellers live. What made it especially difficult to keep our fingers off the trigger is that tourist season corresponded closely with hunting season. So very, very tempting. And no limit on tourists!

“Officer, I was aiming for a six-point buck, but at the last moment, that old lady with the walker leaped in my way. It was just an unfortunate accident. Coulda happened to anybody.”

“Understood. Just don’t let it happen again.”

First, let me backtrack and explain my distaste. It would seem that if you were going to take up a sport as deadly as hunting, and seeing how death is somewhat final and appears to hurt a lot, it would behoove you to learn a few things about the sport first. There were basic rules concerning firearms and common sense that city folk consistently broke. For example:

  • Never hunt near a road. You could spook a deer into traffic, and if a car hit it, the driver could get badly hurt. This happened to my mom – her car was totaled, and so was the soul of whatever stupid hunter sent that deer into the road, because my mother put an Irish banshee curse on him. If he’s still alive, he’s in pain, and lots of it.

  • Keep your safety on, especially crossing fences. I can’t tell you how many ‘he-tourists’ shot themselves in the foot going over fences. What really surprised me is that they didn’t demand we put in ‘handicap access’ for our fences. “I shot my foot off going over your fence –put in a concrete ramp for my wheelchair, or I’ll sue.” Go ahead and laugh. Just you wait.

  • Identify what it is you’re shooting before you shoot at it. Nothing like hearing a gunshot and seeing a chunk of bark fly off the tree next to you. Yes, that happened to me. Yes, he, too, received a banshee curse. Then there was the city hunter who was found ‘gutting’ a brown cow. Really. No, sir, that’s not a two-point buck – that’s a Jersey cow. Yes, you’re quite the warrior, sir. I'm sure it put up quite the fight. How now, big dummy?

The rules were there for survival’s sake. If you ignored those rules, perhaps you shouldn’t be permitted to survive. Most of the year Darwin seemed to go easy on the city-dwellers, letting them grow fat and lazy until the first frost sent them into the woods. Come hunting season, we’d avoid the forest as much as possible, bringing the horses and cows up in the pasture closest to the house. Then we’d sit back and let the city-idiots shoot at each other. We had ourselves a whole new kind of turkey shoot.

New York City couples carpooled. The he-tourist, aka hunter, would put on his shiny, bright, orange hunting gear, kiss his wife good-bye, and trespass through the nearest field, where he would promptly climb over a fence and, on a good day, shoot himself in the foot. Then he’d limp back to the road to wait for his wife, who was in town drinking lattes and staring at trees. While he was waiting, he contemplated who he could sue for his misfortune, and where he wanted his wheelchair ramp to go.

In the meantime, his wife, the typical she-tourist aka leafer/antiquer, would peruse all the over-priced detritus for sale at the antique boutiques. She’d then drive out to the countryside, park in front of our house, and brazenly steal a pair of cast iron wagon wheels off our front lawn, stuffing them into the trunk of her Cadillac. At least that’s what the she-tourist I bagged did. Poor thing – she was much too old to be hefting something that weighty into her trunk. I could see her suing us if she were injured during her theft, and I was torn between helping the spinster lift her heavy load, or twisting her arms behind her, cop style, and putting my knee into her kidneys, slamming her against the car while I handcuffed her for stealing our property.

I settled for yelling, “HEY!” She dropped her five-finger discount and scuttled back into her Cadillac, spitting gravel down our country road. I hoped she hit a he-tourist hunter on the way back into town. Or that a he-tourist shot at her car. Come on, Darwin – rise and shine, dammit!

Our hay field bordered Route 9G, a major thoroughfare. In other words, it was paved and had two real lanes. Many wayward city dwellers cruised it, pretending to gawk at the leaves changing color, but we knew they were really trolling for old crappy stuff antiques to steal.

At this time of year we’d be in a hurry to get the last hay cutting into the barn, dodging raindrops, stray bullets, and spinsters dragging stolen wagon wheels.

The leafers would park on the side road, blocking our access to the field, jabbering about lattes, and generally making pests of themselves. They were probably waiting for us to turn our backs so they could swipe our hay rake and resell it on Crazy Larry’s Staten Island Farm Equipment Black Market. Or turn it into some sort of country art artifact. Maybe it would resurface as a decorative wrought iron hanging pot holder for some bored, overpriced kitchen on Long Island. These people were downright soul-less.

Sometimes tourists would pull over to the side of the road to take pictures of us. This used to irritate the hell out of me. What were we, a freakin’ Amish zoo exhibit? I wanted to give them something special for their photo album, maybe drop my jeans and show them a real harvest moon.

My youngest brother, Bob, was in that field raking hay. He, too, had had it with the looky-loos, and decided, while still driving the tractor, to drop drawers and give them a Kodak moment. (How he came upon that idea, I'm sure I don't know, or at least I will never admit to suggesting.) Anyway, as he aimed his motoring moonpie at the startled tourists, he failed to notice a fast-approaching gopher hole. As the front left tire fell into the hole, the tractor lurched sideways, and Bob was launched into the air. Luckily, his wayward pants caught on the shift lever of the tractor or he would have rolled, half naked, under the big rear tires. As it was, he accidentally shifted gears with his belt loop, and had to pull himself back up by the steering wheel of the now speeding tractor. Grabbing the wheel like that made the tractor veer sharply, running over and crushing our brand-new handicap access wheelchair ramp for hunters.

Please don’t tell our Dad.


Alan said...

When you drag old rusty farm stuff into your urban home, it really looks like crap. I don't know why anybody would want the junk you have put outside to rust away, in their living room.

Annie said...

Alan, we call it 'rust.' They call it 'patina.' The wheels looked ok outside - we had morning glories growing on them. Nothing I'd want inside, either, but they'd come up for the Rhinebeck Antiques Fair and poke around the old farmhouses looking for 'finds.' To steal something right off our front lawn! I'll never forget the nerve of that ol' biddy.