The Act of Killing
In the Good Book, the earliest written law given to man was deposited on a guy named Moses; this law was called the Ten Commandments. One of their number goes like this, "Thou shall not kill." This commandment has probably been more misunderstood or misquoted more than any of the other nine.
Well intentioned, but misinformed folks have often taken this holy mandate to mean, "Thou shall not kill anything."
Some extremists have even stretched this command to the point that they don't believe that man should even kill plants, let alone critters! I understand them to believe that it is OK to utilize already dead vegetation just as long as it died a natural death. Hmmmm? I wonder if that rule applies to critters that have died without any assist?
Anyway, I did some studying up on the commandment many years ago, and from what I can gather, the original interpretation from the original language says, "Thou shall not murder."
Intellectuals, who know way more than Yours Truly and who have studied this subject in great depth, say the term "murder" actually applies to premeditated homicide specifically towards humankind—an illegal act. The term does not apply when in defense or protection of oneself or one's family, or in war, nor towards plants and animals.
With that said, I admit to being a killer, but I am not a murderer. I have, and do, and plan to, keep on killing plants and critters for food or utilization. When I cut down a tree for fuel wood or for clearing a path, I don't ponder and wring my hands over the deed, apart from being thankful for the resource.
I also don't fret before I drop the hammer on a critter that I'm hunting; it is mostly an instinctive process without much premeditative cogitation.
But I am a hopeless romantic. I believe that's all part of what it is to be a hunter, but I don't take much truck with those who theorize that the critter's spirit gives me permission to take its life, otherwise I couldn't kill it. Likewise, I don't give any credence to the notion that at the moment of kill, the critter's spirit and mine meld into one.
Once the deed is done, it is then I become the romantic; I become reflective. I sometimes feel sadness or even remorse, or the other extreme of ecstatic joy. Most of all I feel thankfulness.
I usually kneel over the demised critter, whether it was a mighty, furred bear, or a tiny, feathered dove, and I stroke its hide or feathers and utter a quiet prayer to the Almighty for the bounty. All the while a rush of adrenaline might make me laugh or cry.
I love the critters whose life I take. They play a part in fulfilling a primal urge and deep need within the marrow of my being. After all, I couldn't be a hunter without something to hunt.
I never disrespect the life I've taken. Each is always a gift and I appreciate the critter before me, and thus, some minutes are spent admiring all of the attributes and beauty (no animal is ever ugly if you study it).
Because of all of this, I will never apologize to anyone for what I do or for being me.
Why did I bring this up? Well, it is because of something else that is ongoing in my life that has nothing to do with the outdoors.
Silver City and Grant County have an ongoing problem with a rash of robberies. I'm told the modus operandi of the thieves is to steal ATVs, then use these stolen vehicles to go overland and rob others. (ATVs are hard to catch when they escape cross-country.) The thieves mostly do this in the daytime, but sometimes also at night, even when folks are home. They like to focus on guns and electronics to sell for meth, I'm also told.
The other day an ATV rider came cross-country and through the back way to my place; it wasn't a kid, either. It was mid-day and I was home.
The first thing I did when I saw the machine no more than yards from my door, was to retrieve my .45 semi-auto pistol and "lock and load" a magazine of 230-grain hollowpoints. Tucking it into the back pocket of my bibs, I ventured outside and merely watched.
Said driver really eyeballed my establishment, all the while making a broad turn-around, and then he ventured back the way he came (I tracked him later). He never saw me.
An hour later, while in the house, I caught a shadow passing by the window outside. I drew the pistol from my pocket and quietly slipped out the back door. Sure enough, there were sounds of clunking, tinking and thunking coming from the carport!
My heart beat loudly, and my mouth dried of spittle as I held the pistol, muzzle towards the sky, and I turned the corner. I was scared!
Thankfully, it turned out to be my wife coming home early and unannounced for the holiday. You better believe that this old guy was relieved!
After the close encounter I gave a lot of thought to the act of taking a life, and it got me to pondering over killing animals and plants as well as humans. This column is a summary of my thoughts.
You see, I never want to kill another human, not in defense, not in malice, not ever! But if push comes to shove and my life is in danger, or my loved ones' lives (including pets) are in danger, or my things are in danger of looting, be assured that I'll suck up my fear and trepidation and do what I must.
Will there be regret, sorrow, disgust and anguish if I do the foul deed? Dang right!
I'm told by friends who have been robbed that the results to the psyche are terrible; one feels paranoia and fear long afterwards, sometimes for years. They feel a sense of having been violated much akin to rape.
It is a sad fact that if a thief makes good on his or her robbery, that it is quite likely they will rob the same place more than once. (My neighbor has been robbed three times!) I don't believe I, my family or anyone else should go through that.
As always, keep the sun at your back, the wind in your face, and may the Forever God bless you out there.
Larry Lightner writes Ramblin' Outdoors monthly for Desert