I was a wee lad, 6 years of age, when I went on my first hunting trip. This was considered a rite of passage of sorts, pushing me closer to manhood whether I was ready or not. I remember a few of my older cousins and their Dads were there, as was my Grandfather and his cronies. All rough and manly men, they all kept seriously teaching me about gun safety as they passed around bottles to each other. They seemed very thirsty for so early in the morning and I remember my Grandma yelling something to that effect as Gramps laughed and led the hunting party out of the camp. I was still too young to be in the thick of the fray, so to speak, but I did get to shoot my gun a few times, so I was one of the men. Until it came to gutting the rabbit. Now, I joke a lot, but I am the farthest thing from a country boy there is. Don’t get me wrong; I LOVE the country and I feel the soul of country and when I figure out this blog-inserting-links thing I will be linking some of my original country songs. But, really, me gutting a rabbit? In this caldron of machismo, I picked up the huge (it seemed huge to me) knife and pointed to where my Uncle Bob showed me to insert the blade. I am sure I looked like a real badass as I turned my head, inserted the knife, and pulled the blade upward, as the entrails spilled out into a bucket. Of course my actions elicited a roar of laughter. You would think that initial experience might have soured me on eating rabbits, but truth be told, one of the very best things you can eat is a Cassoulet du Lapin. It is a rich rabbit stew that is cooked for four days in an earthenware crock. Heaven. I don’t think about the hunting trip when I eat it. This dish begs for a crisp Chardonnay.
Another illustration of my “country boy” prowess was my first experience riding solo on a horse. We were at my Uncle Jake and Aunt Wilma’s ranch. I was there with my cousin Ricky and we were having the time of our lives spending the summer with our favorite relatives. Now Ricky was a country boy. He knew how to ride horses and everything. There were two horses that were sectioned off from the others that we were allowed to ride: Lightning, a big, strong, fast black horse and Jughead, an old geezer that had to be reminded on occasion, to put one slow hoof in front of the other. As we trotted along at a leisurely pace, I was gaining in confidence. To the point where I was feeling cocky and in control of the valiant steed Jughead. I was John Wayne. Then a twig snapped under Lightning’s hoof, startling Jughead and sending him on the deathride of our lives. As he galloped faster and faster, I kept hitting him on the sides with my hand. Stop! Stop! Stop! I yelled in vain as Jughead huffed his way faster and faster. Ricky was yelling at me. I finally could hear him say “Stop hitting him! Pull back on the reins! I yanked back on the reins bringing Jughead mercifully to a stop, sending me airborne. Life ain’t nothing but a funny, funny riddle….