I ran into a walnut grower the other day and inquired if he had begun his harvest. “Not quite” he replied.” The almond guys have started, but the walnuts are still a couple weeks out”. Whether its, almonds, walnuts, grapes, or row crops. harvest season is definitely upon us. I know that a lot of folks hate to see summer go, but I love the coming of all of the seasons. I love the cool mornings that are the first hint of fall, the first frost that warns of the coming of winter, and the warm afternoon sun that signals the advent of spring.
Way back when almost everyone was a farmer, the fall harvest and the fall hunting season went hand in hand. As a people, we were all aware, on a day to day, year to year, basis that we were part of God’s grand scheme. Just as droughts, spring floods, or an especially bitter winter created lean times for farmers, so too, the whims of nature meant lean hunting or a bumper crop of game for the winter. Times, of course, have changed, and we are now predominantly an urban society instead of an agricultural one.
Rather than living and working on farms, most of us now live in cities and work at jobs that leave us out of contact with the workings of nature and her eternal cycles.
One touchstone to the natural world that many urban dwellers retain is our hunting heritage. Every fall millions of Americans take to the woods and fields and experience being a part of nature, rather than being insulated from nature. Indeed many Americans who are neither farmers nor hunters seem to feel they are above nature rather than part of it. It’s those urban dwellers who are so insulated from nature that give us a society that thinks dairy farming or chicken farms are a form of animal cruelty. They don’t seem to realize that if you order bacon and eggs at Denny’s and wash it down with a glass of milk that farming somehow must have entered the picture. Fact is, those are the same folks who condemn hunting too. Farmers & hunters not only have a lot of similarities, and are often the same people.
To succeed as a hunter, you must know something about the game you seek and the environment that surrounds it. You must study the terrain, the vegetation your quarry needs for food and shelter, and age old migration routes. You must be aware of the importance of a shift in the wind or a subtle rustle in the leaves. While in an urban environment you can pay no attention to the weather and only suffer inconvenience or perhaps a cold. When afield however, ignoring natures warning signs can prove fatal. If you get too wrapped up in tracking a deer and fail to notice the wind shifting from west to south, you might just get trapped in the first blizzard of the season.
Every farmer knows that he is subject to the changing moods of nature, that a freak storm or frost or rain can spell disaster. A farmer who ignores the signs of a coming frost is likely to pay a heck of a price. City dwellers have become insulated from the natural world. The seeming security of our comfortable homes and air conditioned cars and processed TV dinners have lulled us into forgetting that we are still a part of that esoteric term “the balance of nature”. We know that water springs clean and clear from our kitchen tap, that milk comes from the supermarket, and that meat comes wrapped in plastic wrap.
I honestly believe that a large number of us have forgotten that water must come from a well or a river, that milk is the product of a living, breathing, animal and that if we eat meat for dinner that some animal had to die. It seems to me that those millions of Americans who go afield each fall probably have a better understanding of the value of clean streams or the importance of a meadow where deer can have their fawns. Whether seeking deer with a bow, or pheasants with a shotgun, hunters realize that we must kill if we are to eat meat.
Each fall, those of us who hunt have re-educated ourselves and once again learned that we are indeed a part of this planet on which we live. Buying our meat at the supermarket is all well and good. But hunters and anglers, at least in part, stay connected to the cycles of nature. When we succeed, and sit down to a dinner of venison or trout, which we have been fortunate enough to put on the table, maybe, just maybe, we might be a little more likely to give thanks for our meal.