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the daily special

2015 October 5
by Rachel Turiel

daily special

It’s morning, heralding the inevitable convergence of four people’s needs at one kitchen table. Col is taping and folding an enormous paper airplane, enveloped in the auditory fog of his own whistling. Rose is explaining how she likes oatmeal but only under certain, somewhat changeable circumstances. (She’s also drinking milk with a straw AND medicine spoon because apparently there could always be a little more plastic involved with her food). I am pondering what to do with all the backyard grapes and apples we picked in hopes of discouraging the neighborhood bear. Dan is pushing a glossy hunting magazine in front of me, pointing to a photo of a massive bull elk, asking, “this one?”

The bull stands broadside and I mark an X on his vitals; this is the shot I pray for. On an elk facing forward, I pen an X adjacent to his mane of neck fur, into that vital pouch of lung. “Dead on, honey!” Dan says. He flips through pages, pointing out elk in varying positions. “Don’t think, just place the mark,” he instructs. He turns pages, I scrawl killing Xs.

“Ok, with this position you need to shoot higher,” Dan instructs.

“But, wouldn’t I be shooting through the scapula?”

“Sure, sometimes you’ll break through bone to get to the vitals.”

Oh.

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Moments like this are sobering. I don’t want to hurt anybody. In June, backpacking alone, I came across a small herd of cow elk grazing in a meadow. I took off my pack and leaned against a rock, watching their velvety brown heads lowered to the earth, tearing mouthfuls of new summer grass. When they raised watchful eyes towards me, I whispered, You’re OK. I‘m not going to hurt you. 

At least not until fall.

Oof.

Mornings, after meditating, I pull the hunting rifle out of the case and practice different positions: sitting, standing, kneeling, with a rest, without. Next, I do lunges and squats while sleep-rumpled kids blink their way into the livingroom, “Good morning…pant…pant…darlings!”

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Every day I do at least one thing for the cause—ride my bike uphill, lunges and squats, guzzle bone broth, target practice, prepare my mind, concoct uber-calorie backpack snacks—while also putting pounds of tomatoes through the preservation paces. I read The Magician’s Elephant to the kids while wriggling into thick, wool pants. “How do they feel?” Dan asks. Col inspects and assesses the situation: “a little bottom heavy.”

Everything is still a little surreal and romantic: packing the truck with firewood, marking X’s on airbrushed photos, imagining sneaking through the Technicolor autumn woods with a goal far removed from say, trying to turn Rose against plastic.

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And then, everything comes startlingly into focus. I’m in the “shooting meadow” with Dan, pushing copper bullets–which are just so alarmingly…bullet-like–into the rifle chamber. It’s 85F and I’m practicing shooting with a backpack, jacket and wool gloves. I’m wedged against a ponderosa stump, thistles biting my legs, trying to condense my multi-pronged mental checklist into one swift, decisive action.

The shots go where I want them to at 150 yards, and I allow myself to think that maybe—if all the many other factors converge with mystical-like order, then maybe—I can pull this off.

Driving home, Dan says, “Our advantage is that we’re not afraid to go where the animals are.”

“We’re not?”

“Right. Because we’re in good shape and our minds are strong, too.”

Why am I doing this? For adventure, challenge, connection, intimacy with my food, the season and the land. I’m also interested in the notion that instead of being a mom who brings home, um, library books, I could be the mom who brings home meat.

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My hunting season starts in less than one week.

My friend, Mikel, asked me this morning, “Are you nervous?”

“Yes.”

“Excited?”

“Yes.”

“Scared?”

“Yes.”

“Hungry?”

“Yes.”

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Grape-apple fruit leather

xo,

Rachel



12 Responses leave one →
  1. October 5, 2015

    Love it!
    My meat-gathering has been limited to “harvesting” my chickens. No big game. I should probably say, “Yet!” because I never would have dreamed I’d kill my own chickens.

    I did love it when some one offered us a whole deer a client had shot, but didn’t want. (?) A neighbor came over to help my hubby cut and package it all. I had a full freezer of gooood meat and was only in charge of cooking it all.
    I do have an awesome Venison Barbacoa recipe for the crockpot if you’re interested….

  2. October 5, 2015

    I love how this one is written. I can picture it all. You would fit in wonderfully where we live in SK.

  3. Julia permalink
    October 5, 2015

    Intense, Mama. Need help packing out? Need a hug afterwards?

  4. October 5, 2015

    OMG this is so excellent.

  5. October 5, 2015

    This is so gripping, Rachel. Thinking like an elk, dwelling in his/her wild territory for a week – this would indeed appeal to me a lot. But oh, wishing so much that every one of them will never have to fear anything from me. Forgive me for saying so. My eyes are burning. Love you xo

  6. Susan S permalink
    October 5, 2015

    I love the balance of work with your sense of power, with trepidation overlying the whole thing. I sort of liked this article: http://www.fieldandstream.com/blogs/hunting/2009/12/ritual-after-death-venison

    Rachel, you and Dan have a good hunt.

  7. October 5, 2015

    “enveloped in the auditory fog of his own whistling…”

    Seriously?!? (as Dewa would say)

    i dunno…it’s just a dang pleasure to share this plane(t) with y’all this time around…
    thanks for watching D-cat today…

    oh, i’m sure Dan will agree…when the M(om)ent comes? press the trigger at the END of your exhale (hopefully with the Mantra and Mula Bandha engaged!)

    you can’t be a Peaceful Warrioress without experiential knowledge of the BattleDance…remember, the Bhagavad Gita takes place on a battlefield….

    head bowed,
    spirit vowed,

    { }

  8. October 6, 2015

    So the next time we hear from you in this space it might be done? I’m loving living vicariously through you on this one (big game hunting in South Africa is not nearly so … natural).
    Also, there’s a reason you’re doing this which you surely left off the list: it must get that 15/43 yr old husband of yours even hotter under the collar to have you share a passion, a calling, a great big weapon?
    I have the same kind of husband (the best kind right?) and by god I think he’d die and go to heaven if I learnt how to strip and reassemble a motorbike with him ;-)

  9. jordan permalink
    October 6, 2015

    Just loving this. you are brave.

  10. Andrea permalink
    October 6, 2015

    Sister, you are so brave. Truely. Cannot wait to hear all about it, no matter the outcome.

  11. Solyysa permalink
    October 6, 2015

    I’m fairly new to hunting myself. I’m so looking forward to the writing that comes after this journey for you! I can just feel your anticipation and nerves. You have the best teacher you could hope for!

  12. becky permalink
    October 21, 2015

    i am beyond anxious to read of your trip. i know you are super awesome for Dan to want you to go with him

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