A couple of weeks ago, I visited New York City to do research at the New York Public Library and the library of the American Kennel Club. They had some sporting journals I wished to inspect for a book I am working on that will give the history of duck hunting in the United States.
While walking the streets, Henry David Thoreau's Walden came to mind:
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary.
“I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion…
“Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumbnail. In the midst of this chopping sea of civilized life, such are the clouds and storms and quick sands and thousand-and-one items to be allowed for, that a man has to live, if he would not flounder and go to the bottom and not make his port at all, by dead reckoning, and he must be a great calculator indeed who succeeds. Simplify, simplify.”
As I traveled around Time Square, full of hustle and bustle, I wondered if any of these city slickers had ever gotten mud between their toes or felt elemental sympathy with nature while hunting, or had ever hunted. I sensed that none had.
I also sensed that none felt the urge which each autumn and winter causes sportsmen to leave warm homes for the discomforts and dangers of inclement weather, treacherous marshes, and unnatural hours.
I believe they will never understand that the sportsman, who answers the annual summons of the hunting season, gets, in no other way, such an uplifting of spirit, such ecstatic pleasure, and such a glow of health.
Truly, there is no atmosphere to this place they call New York. At no time did I get the delightful feeling that the ghosts of good times past were lurking in the shadows of the many tall buildings like there are in the shadows of a duck blind, on the shelves of the decoy storage room, or in the bedrooms of old hunting clubs.
It is easy to picture the old-timers at their clubhouses each evening yarning before their fires, joshing one another for their misses, recalling this, that, or the other unusual shot, or telling a fish story.
As I searched for some resemblance of sanity, a poem kept popping into my head:
“There's a charm at the Old Point Blind
When the winds go whistling by.
There's a kiss in the autumn wind
For my Old Pards and I.”
They can have their jewels, their moneys, their… But for me, I'll take my old trusty 12-gauge, my aged 4-wheeler, and mud between my toes to anything they have, or will ever have.