Friday, September 26, 2008


The man across the campfire spoke in clear uncertain terms about something that was dear to his heart. His love of the outdoors was apparent in his sentence structure and his voice tone inflections. His comments were right to the point. His delivery was not polished, nor elequent, yet, all at the campfire listened intently, for it was a subject that was of vital intrest to them all.No one took note that the speaker was a high school dropout that had finally obtained a G E D while deployed overseas in the military. Though well into his sixties, the military bearing and demeanor was also readily apparent, as he stood before them in full camouflage, gesturing occasionaly to emphasize a point.The subject being so passionately discussed around the campfire was the future and direction of hunting in the Ouachita Mountains.As he finished his statement and the next camoed hunter began to respond, he in turn listened intently. The speaker made his points quickly and right to the point. He ticked each point off on a finger as he spoke. His un trimmed beard belied the fact that the speaker had a Law Degree. As he stopped talking, he said, “Judge, if we make these changes, how will it effect us in the future?”The next speaker responded slowly and deliberately, chosing his words carefully, his blaze orange camo was faded from years of exposure to the elements. Nearing the end of his comments, he was interrupted by a hunter that wore a camo blaze orange cap bearing the logo of a local logging company that he owned.The judge just raised one finger, indicating, “one second, please”, and finished making his point. He gestured “you are next”, with the palm of his hand, and the logger began to talk.As the first speaker listened to the discussion, he considered the situation.Camouflaged hunters from all professions and stations in local culture, regardless of their educational level, were talking as peers in this cultural matter. As one of the oldest at the campfire, he had known most around the fire, for all of their lives.Glancing around the fire, he noted, seven masters degrees, two law degrees, four elected officials, four business owners, and six retired or semi retired seniors. Children were playing nearby oblivious to the levity of the conversation.His reverie was broken by a camoed woman with mostly grey hair showing under her camo cap. He had helped drag her last buck out to the nearest road. Her point was that whatever was decided, the direction chosen, should consider and include local traditions. Heads were nodding around the campfire as she made this point.Deer season was all but over, and most of the hunters had venison in the freezer already. The future and direction of hunting was their topic of discussion.Grinning inwardly to himself, he thought, ” if this group of mud flapped, glass pack mufflered, gunracked, pickups and their drivers were suddenly and instantly transported to a shopping mall in the state capitol, it would cause quite a stir ! ” As a couple of kenneled dogs in a pickup truck began to loudly threaten each other, a younger man wearing army issue digital camo ACU’s, quietened them down with a few words. It drew the attention of the elders around the fire. The conversation had lagged and one elder asked what he thought about the issue.Slowly and thoughtfully he responded. Nodding his head toward the woman that had spoken earlier, he said, “she is right, the core of the matter is tradition. While I was deployed to Iraq, it was comforting to know that you all were here preserving the traditions that I was over there fighting to protect. It was what I would think about, as I got the most homesick. I guess that nearly all of you have noticed that I am not really trying to take a deer, but I am mostly soaking up the atmosphere and flavor of what I missed while away”Quiet prevailed around the fire as each mulled over what the decorated soldier had said.The soldier had just recieved his degree and was ready to begin a career as a educator when the twin towers of the world trade center had came down. Putting his promising career on hold, to serve his country added serious weight to his statement.It was at that point that the fireside discussion broke up. The soldier had been handed a heaping bowl of venison chili, by a hunter that said, “hey buddy, remember this old Ouachita Mountain tradition ?”As the first hunter stepped in line to get a bowl of deer camp chili, he thought, “now that’s what I am talking about !”

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