CAWTHON'S CATHARSIS - Sunday Hunting And Forgiving Trespassers

(03/22/2001)

By Jack Cawthon

The Legislature is kicking around a Sunday hunting proposal to the consternation of many landowners. I met a landowner recently who had given up on all hunting. Some outlaw hunters should feel mighty lucky that he did so. This is his story.

He suddenly appeared in the center of the road waving a red stop sign like a matador in the ring as I bulled my way across the state line carrying another cargo of contraband. This time I figured that the border patrol had nabbed me for sure with my purchases of tax-exempt food and previously owned clothing from that mysterious land of Pennsylvania to the north where the populace escapes our petty taxes on the necessities of life such as food and clothing.

I breathed a sigh of relief as I screeched to a stop. It was only another road resurfacing project, one of the few roads in the state, barely, that hadn't yet received one under the misunderstood Underwood who finally paved his way out with good intentions. There had been so much road construction that I felt there should have been a moratorium on all driving for three or four months, with everyone just staying home.

But here I was stopped, again, but fortunately within the land of my birth by a few feet, and in the shade at that, because it was a hot day in early fall. "Good to stop in the shade," I said to the ramrod straight flagger, remembering the politically correct term and not the sexually biased "flagman," although he certainly qualified as one before the verbal emasculation.

He eyed me with that steely stare and the clenched jaw that I have observed in veteran lawmen who try to decide whether one is a friend or a smart aleck, and I am always thankful when I pass muster that they haven't read any of the stuff that I write.

As the role of a flagger can be, well, rather flagging, especially if one is overqualified, say, with a college degree, good conversation may be welcomed at times.

When he spoke, I noticed the hill twang that is so welcomed by those of up north who grew up a little south, and I replied likewise with "Where you frum?" "Lewis County," was the reply. "Gilmer," I said, not wanting to go into lengthy explanation of why I was a wayfaring wanderer among strange people who talk funny. We exchanged the secret handshake that only we hill natives recognize and we immediately became brothers of that tight knit cloister which elite fraternal organizations can only envy.

Our conversation got around to our native birthright of land, which means so much in a society often rootless and on the move, and how we cope with those people who might wish to deprive us of our inheritance, in this case outlaw hunters.

"He was gonna put me off'n my own land," he said through clenched teeth, as he described an encounter with a trespasser. "Told me he had it leased," he hissed. "Asked who I was, and when I told him I was the owner, he stood there and argued with me."

"Closest I ever come to shooting a man," he said with a rapid drawl, and his eyes squinted as though he were looking down the sights of a gun barrel.

"Went home and told the woman that I almost shot a man, and then I went in and got all my guns and laid them on the bed, got my sons together and told them to choose what they wanted cause I was gonna sell the rest. Never hunted again!"

As the pilot truck arrived, he stepped aside and I heard him repeat "almost kilt a man." He shook his head as if to clear it, and as he waved me forward I felt that the wave was really a salute.

Somewhere another outlaw hunter will live to hunt another day. But as the Good Book says, sort of, his days may be numbered by the hairs from which he escapes from those who forgive his trespasses.


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