Opossum and Circumstance

23 Sep 2014 by gebhard, No Comments »

parkI’ve recently found myself between jobs.  This gives me to time to do housework, fix my armor, work on side projects, and take my dogs on long walks in the park in the Fall.

I have two dogs, a Basset Hound named Rufus and a German Shepherd named Alex. I jokingly think of them as my hunting pack, and I have a bayer and a tackler, both critical parts of the team needed to take down large game. If I tried to take them hunting, I’m pretty sure Rufus would just lead Alex to nearest fast food restaurant where he can exercise his centuries’ old skills and breeding excellence by looking adorable and begging for food. Research needed to be done, if I was going to have my own hunting pack.

My lovely Baroness and I got a hold of a copy Foxfire, a short run magazine about how a community in the Appalachian mountains lives.  In it is a chapter on dogs and hunting, alongside other things like how to make the best moonshine, butchering, bed making…and so on. While many theories were given about how best to training dogs for hunting, the one I like best is the simplest one.  That is, take your dogs out and see what it is they like to track. If it’s rabbits, then it’s a rabbit hunting dog.  If it’s raccoon, it’s a raccoon hunting dog.

I followed this advice and took my dogs into the woods, and what I learned is Rufus is a pain.  He may only weigh forty pounds, but he can pull like a bulldozer, and he loves to run through the bushes and brambles.  His oily coat protects him. I, however, lack such a thing, and get torn to shreds trying to keep up and plows around through the brush. I also learned, he loves to track opossum. He can smell them miles away and will stop at nothing to get at them.

I view this as something unfair about life.  Sometimes our natural abilities and desires go against the skills needed to do well. What comes easily doesn’t always align with what is useful. As humans, we must adjust ourselves. Rufus, however, is what is he is. Which is why I normally leave him at home rather than take on what is more of wrestling match than a “walk” with a very stubborn dog. It always ends up with me having to carry him after I tire of all his antics.

Alex, on other hand, is very smart, well trained and loves to track deer.

After we headed out to the park on our walk, Alex and I found an ancient burial mound that is over a thousand years old. We know little to nothing about who was in it, or the people who made it.

As I sat looking at a large mound of dirt in a meadow filled with dark green stalks and bright yellow flowers, a gentle breeze blew the golden flowers. They swayed as the wind rippled them like an ocean swell, set against a bright blue sky. I stood and pondered this mound’s existence, soaking up all that was left of the waning summer’s sun.

We know nothing about the people who made it, but I can guess that whomever it was for, those around them cared very much for them. They were so well thought of that their family and friends dug them a nine foot pile of dirt. If you’ve ever dug a shower pit at Pennsic, you know much work that was. Thousands of years later, their entire culture has been lost, except for the love they had for one of their own.

Have I been kind enough? A good enough husband, friend, father or son that when I’m gone those who know me would spend weeks digging a nine foot pile of dirt in remembrance of me? So that in a thousand years, some odd fellow and his dog, will ponder who I was.

I’m snapped out of my thoughts as an elderly couple walking a beagle happens past and the small dog goes ballistic trying to get a piece of my hundred pound German Shepherd, who is being a very good boy by letting the little dog live.

The couple drags away a barking and snapping beagle, and they disappear into the shadows of the woods. I ponder life for a moment to let the beagle get a healthy head start on the trip back to the van.

Then, Alex and I resume our course.  In short time, he smells something interesting.  We take a few steps off our path into the woods, and I see deer tracks in the soft ground.

“Can I go after it? I really want to. Can I? Can I? Can I? I really really want to!” Alex asks.

“I know buddy.  When the time comes, you’ll always be my first pick because there is only so much use for opossum.”



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