RECENTLY RETURNED from the yearly SHOT (Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade) Show in Vegas. Itis a four-day orgy of things you do not want. Yet. However, if the right buttons are pushed by the advertising men, you will alter your mind. As it's, strange, SHOT is a core sample of the American outdoorsman's head. And what we long to be is one of two things: the first member of a three, or an elite sniper -man SWAT team through the doorway. The identity of the enemy is not clear, but it does not matter. What does is that we're up to the assignment. We're professionals, immune to pity or fear. We're not incapable, deadly, not to be messed with. And all that stands between us and our heroic finest selves is the suitable hardware: ARs in exotic calibres--the 6.5 Grendel, the .300 Blackout--that bristle with night scopes, lasers, computerized ballistics calculators, and silencers the size of salamis.
By the time I got home, I felt oddly tainted. I had been exposed to an excessive amount of technology, too much of the imperceptible desire machine that makes us need it. So I did what I Have done every couple of years for around four decades. I dipped back in the flat out finest hunting story ever composed, William Faulkner's "The Bear."
I warn you. Faulkner is everything that SHOT isn't. He does not give a damn about being user friendly. If anything, he goes out of his way to not be easy. His stream of consciousness style veers from reality to myth and back again. He will uncork a page-long sentence without warning. He regularly dispenses with fact completely in pursuit of truths bigger than simple facts. In the event you are confused, you have got business. Scholars debate whether the matter is a a brief novel or a long short story. It often reads as if Faulkner composed "The Bear" for an audience of one--himself.
But it is worth the whistle. Whatever his faults, Faulkner has hunting in his marrow. Continue reading this description of wilds and hunters who go there "with the will and hardihood to put up with and the humility and ability to live, as well as the dogs as well as the bear and deer juxtaposed and alleviated against it, ordered and compelled by and within the wilds in the early and unremitting competition according to the historical and illimitable rules which invalidated all sorrows and brooked no quarter."
The narrative unfolds through the eyes of Ike--first as a lad of 10, then as a skilled woodsman of 16. He's the youngest in several hunters who journey each autumn to the Big Bottom to run dogs on other game and deer. To Ike, hunting is not a pastime. The woods are his only possible salvation, his school, his route to manhood. He's ravenous for the ability, humility, and pride by which a man may not prove unworthy of being called a hunter. For as long as Ike has not been dead, the key occurrence of the yearly excursion has become the hunt for Old Ben, who isn't only a bear, but the bear. He is a fabulous creature, the heart of the wilderness made flesh--historical, indomitable, harmful, evasive, light years beyond such manmade theories as great or bad. He's consumed countless charges of ball, shot, and bullets, all "with no more effect than so many peas blown through a tube by a kid." The hunters expect to kill Old Ben. The pursuit is an offering to the primeval primacy more service than hunt and unfathomable power of the natural world. And these same guys--and, by extension, all guys-- have doomed the wilds. Ruin and they--we--do not hesitate to manipulate it for their own gain.
I will not destroy the story by telling you how it finishes. It's going to lift your spirit as it destroys your heart, the manner hunting exalts your ability as you sear with knowledge the world will not miss a beat at your way out.
It is tough to spell out why you adore a specified publication, challenging and particularly one as convoluted as this one. I reread "The Bear" because it affirms matters I believe. Since it articulates them better and more profoundly than I can. Because underlying every word I feel Faulkner's knowledge that hunting is the way particular guys fill a demand felt by all of us--to link an individual consciousness to the universal one, the one that's consistently been and will be, the one whose powers, rhythms, and puzzles transfer all matters.
When Ike is sent back to the city to replenish the hunters' store of whiskey, the prospect of hunting as well as the simple truth of clearing weather make his world more clear. "He felt the old face lift of the heart, as pure as ever, as on the very first day; he'd never lose it, regardless of how old in hunting and pursuit: the greatest, the very best of all respiration, the humility as well as the pride."
There's no Faulkner booth in the SHOT Show. Perhaps there ought to be.