Monday, March 2, 2009

Winter and Delta Waterfowl Series

I’m cold. In the past I’ve posted about the winter here in North Dakota so everyone is well aware of the conditions up here but the cold is starting to wear on me. To cope with it one does exactly that—cope. A problem that I see starting to loom on my horizon is my supply of firewood. I know about how much I will burn in the course of a day and when I calculate that out against what remains of the wood I cut last fall, and the days of winter that could be ahead there isn’t enough wood. I suppose I “could” go out and cut some more wood but I’m really not in the mood to deal with the drifted snow. Let me explain why. What dominates this part of the country is one word—wind. We can have a snowfall of six inches and in the morning you’ll have six inches of snow on the ground to shovel. Later in the day or the next when the wind kicks up it picks up the snow and moves it around. Sure, we have the drifts over the roads and in town over sidewalks and around the houses but that does not account for all of the snow. A person who doesn’t have any experience up here might want to think the snow is gone because you can’t see it in the fields. It isn’t gone, it is piled up in the woods and low places and nature has packed the snow down and hidden it so what appears to be only a few inches of remaining snow is actually the accumulation of weeks of snow that has been compacted. The wind may have sucked some of the moisture out of the snow but not enough. In the spring—it melts and makes water—lots of water. Flood danger water and now the newspapers are starting to publish the flood probability figures. A lot of people have learned the lessons from the 1997 disaster, but not all and there are a lot of new people (like me) who were not here for that disaster. But I grew up with annual floods near my home in Oklahoma and I do take flood threats seriously—I’m watching, reading and waiting.

Back to the wood cutting and the snow problem I started this post with. The snow that has been blowing out of the fields has not left the country and what is not piled into the low country is piled into the wooded areas and uncut fields. I stopped to look at the snow in a field of uncut corn and I was stunned. Just a foot or two into the standing corn the snow was up to my waist but outside the uncut corn it is only a few inches deep and in some places the fields are swept bare. The same is true of the wooded areas—the snow is piled up too deep for anyone to safely maneuver through it. The animals have their paths through the snow and they’ve created retreats from the weather but the winter is being hard on them. Old-timers, and even the not-so-old-timers have reminded me that much of the snow that caused the floods of 1997 fell after the rest of the country was enjoying spring. The upshot is that no one can be sure that nature isn’t through dealing her winter blows to this region.

Of course, all of the above has kept me out of the spring goose hunting fields. I haven’t heard of anyone actually doing any local hunting although I am sure there is probably some in other areas. I’ll just have to wait my turn.

The dogs are becoming stir-crazy though. Because of the danger of a dog falling into a deep drift, floundering and actually disappearing under the snow I can’t take them out to run off some of the energy so they’ve been taking out their frustration on me—when I close up the office for the night. Last night they managed to get down a pair of computer gloves that my daughter, Jamia, had sent me for Christmas. I didn’t even get a chance to wear them! I’m trying to convince Jamia to send more a new pair. I don’t know if it will work.

There is one good product of the long winter. I have really had an opportunity to see what I like and don’t like about my office. This was the first full winter I spent working out here (I was eased out of the house to make way for a real dining room.). Because of back issues I’ve had to build a temporary standing desk where I can work standing up when the meds wear off and I’ve planned how I am going to remodel my office so that I have my normal desk and my standing desk and book cases. I want to be able to see my guns, my mounts, and some fishing gear and now I know how to do it. So, see, winter hasn’t been a total waste!

By the way, Delta Waterfowl (This is a good organizations: ) has published, in their magazine Delta Waterfowl, (that’s a no brainer (a five part series “The Vanishing Hunter” and the last installment was in their Winter, 2008 issue. I’ve just finished reading the series (all at once, not waiting each installment then waiting for the next) and I’ve found it to be, overall, an excellent series with some truly probing insights to the problems the authors have raised. I don’t agree with everything they have written but I’m reading some of the sources they named (most of them I have already read and even quoted in previously published articles but there are a few that are new and once I've read them I'll review their works here) and waiting to see if those sources reshape some of my opinions by providing new information. All that said one of the premises that I maintain is publication does not make “it” so. Marx was published but that does not make what he wrote “so” but only an idea. But, on the other hand, should we as hunters be looking for a hunting gospel, something that gives us a greater insight into exactly where we fit in contemporary social structures? Or, is that sort of search actually weakening hunters as a social group by inferring an admission of doubt about the legitimacy of the hunter?

I’m sitting here, at my cluttered writing desk, often way late at night (or into the early morning, depending on your viewpoint) writing the final part of my series for Whitetails Unlimited magazine and what I am writing is an examination of our ethics. I’ve worked on it for hours and hours, way beyond what would make it profitable writing, but I’ve written on note pads, in notebooks and on whiteboards on my walls. I’ve compared the ethical behavior mandates for hunters of fifty, a hundred and four-hundred years ago. The mandates change with time but core premises of ethics don’t change, they stay with hunting and it seems with each epoch of civilization these core ethics, small as they may be, are built upon by new generations of hunters to create a new creed for the coming generations. Maybe, in my mind, this is something that was missed in the Delta Waterfowl series—that we retain and build in a complex relationship that needs more study, and study apart from trying to justify today’s actions by quoting the old, but looking at how the core of mandates for ethical behaviors seem to form an unbreakable chain to the past and we need to know how that chain was first forged.

Thoughts anyone?


Blessed said...

It seems that the core of our ethics - the foundation - is the same from generation to generation over the past thousands of years - and not just in hunting, but in all areas of life. It will be interesting to read your article when it is finished. And thank you for the heads-up about Delta Waterfowl's series, that sounds like some good reading!

Galen Geer said...

I believe this is the point that is often being missed by today's pundits. They are very caught up in wrapping themselves in what they believe is "modern" thinking but actually don't have a clue about "modern" beyond how they are allowing technology to govern their lives. Technology is, and should remain, a tool to enhance one's life and not allowed to govern one's actions. Having been down for a while I spent some time (too much) watching outdoor programs and I wasn't impressed with how many of the broadcasters used gadgets to replace skill and the impact that use of gadgets seemed to be having on how they viewed ehtical behavior.
Talk about ironic, I'm writing this and NPR is running a feature on technology in the classsroom.

Sarah Regan Snavely said...

I share your feelings about the winter & snow. Ready for it to be over. I was in Moorhead in 1997 -- don't wish that again.

Wishing you a nice, slow melt.

Chas S. Clifton said...

"Computer gloves"? Do they have USB ports?

Anonymous said...

I'm also interested in the ways that ethics and culture intersect. If you haven't already, look at Hall's "Beyond Culture" and Eliot's "Notes Toward a Definition of Culture" for some good insights.

IMO culture and ethics are a major component of the glue that hols a society together over the generations.

I look forward to your article too.

Anonymous said...

Oh, and on possible evolutionary origins see this very interesting piece`by Haidt:

PS sorry for typos, am stuck hunt & pecking w/left hand for a while (and btw also finding that tv is junk)