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The first thing about quail hunting I hate is that it involves getting up at five in the morning.  Mom’s hippie-redneck boyfriend bangs on my door and leaps into the room all full of enthusiasm.  “Come on, little man, let’s go hunt some quail!”  He shakes my shoulder as I lie defiantly unresponsive in bed, my eyes tightly closed.  I want to tell hippie-redneck boyfriend that it’s bad enough he’s banging my mom, but now this?

But he’s a big, shaggy, irresistible puppy now.  “Come on!  It’s gonna be great!  There’s gonna be guns and blood and beer!  I’m gonna treat you just like a man, and we’re gonna bond, and then we’ll have our own separate connection that doesn’t go through your mother, and it will be part of this careful network of connections I’m building like a web around your mother, making it ever harder for her to extract herself!”  He doesn’t say all of this, of course, because he doesn’t understand what he’s doing as well as I do.  Mostly he just pants happily and pushes my shoulder.  If I continue to stubbornly resist, he’ll probably end up licking my face.

No shower.  I pull a baseball cap over my sleep-twisted hair, choose some clothes from the floor and dress haphazardly.  Then I’m being herded out through the morning mist to hippie-redneck boyfriend’s rusty old pickup truck.  It’s cold, and I can see my breath in the grey twilight.  I’m thinking to myself that human breath is not meant to be seen.  If a human can see his breath it’s a clear indication he’s doing something wrong.  He’s in the wrong place, the wrong time, or both.

On the way through town, we stop at a house to pick up a couple of hippie-redneck-boyfriend friends.  One is a guy almost as young as me, but leaner, longer, and pimply.  Hippie-redneck boyfriend introduces us excitedly, hoping we’ll be friends and establish another connection.  The new kid gives me a sadistic leer, enough to let me know if he gets me alone he’ll torture me for being younger and smaller than him.

Back on the road, the cold air blasting my feet through the holes in the floorboard, hippie-redneck boyfriend gives me a can of beer with the same self-satisfied smile Prometheus no doubt wore when he handed a fennel stalk of fire to man.

My frozen hand reaches through the frozen air to grasp the warm can of beer.  How did he manage that?  Hippie-redneck boyfriend’s incompetence knows no bounds.

“Don’t tell your mother,” he says seriously.  What a strong connection we have now, we two conspirators.  He chugs his warm beer happily.

We leave town and go to the place where the quail live.  It’s a vineyard, ragged and overgrown, looted of its green pearls months before.  I assume the quail live here peacefully, going about their quail business, living their quail lives, pursuing their quail dreams.  We clearly don’t belong here, we towering, creaky humans, swaying above the rows of vines like walking smokestacks, polluting the chilled air with clouds of morning breath.  Once far enough from the road, we spread out.  I make sure I’m nowhere near the leering sadist.

I’m armed with a 20-gauge shotgun my grandpa bought me to mark my transition to a kind of provisional manhood. At a certain age, I’m given the shotgun to replace my little boy’s BB gun. A shotgun is like a BB gun, except that it is loaded with a plastic cylinder packed with hundreds of BBs and, instead of air pressure, the gun propels the BBs using an explosive chemical reaction discovered by some Chinese guy a long time ago who had way too much time on his hands. The plastic cylinder stays in the gun and the BBs begin spreading out as soon as they leave the barrel. Shotguns are for the hunting enthusiast who finds “aiming” detrimental to the enjoyment of the sport.

When you hunt quail you squat down and wait.  This is different from hunting pheasants.  When you hunt pheasants you go somewhere with tall grass, and you stomp through the tall, wet grass where the pheasants are hiding.  The pheasants try to stay still and quiet so you’ll walk by without knowing they’re there, but if you get too close to one and he loses his nerve, he leaps into the air in a panic of pounding wings.  Sometimes he’s with his mate, and they both explode from the wet grass at the same time.  If you haven’t died of a heart attack, you have to collect your wits quickly enough to aim your weapon and fire before your prey is out of range.

But when hunting quail you just wait for them to come wandering by.  Eventually they do, usually in a small group, chatting amongst themselves; oblivious, for some reason, to the invasion of gun-toting killer giants.  But then, who expects gun-toting killer giants?

At first they don’t see me, squatting but still towering above them.  It occurs to me that it makes no sense to try to hide from something smaller than me by squatting, but I’ll forget that in the ensuing excitement.  For now, I freeze in anticipation.  They see me, and they stop moving and go silent.  They are elegantly attired in grey, black and pale blue feathers, but they wear silly hats. They are California Valley Quail, Callipepla californicus. They stare up at me.

I stare back.

There is a long awkward moment, and then finally one of them, assuming a leadership role, takes a step forward and says to me, “How’s it going?”

I am careful not to move anything except my mouth. “Good. How’s it going with you?”

The bird thinks a moment before answering.  Maybe he was thinking during that moment about answering with something clever or substantive, but he’s cautious, and he chooses instead not to deviate from the casual formality.  “We’re good.”

Then he looks down at the shotgun I’m cradling in my squat-lap.

I look down too, embarrassed.  “Yeah.  The gun.  Well, you see…”

He cocks his head and waits expectantly.  The others wait too.  One of them begins to fidget.

What to say?  Since I have to do what I have to do, there’s no point in prevaricating.  “You see, the reason I’m here… with this gun… I’m going to shoot you.”

The quail look at each other and they all begin to fidget.  The leader says, “Dude.”

I raise the gun and twist towards them.   This is the other thing about quail hunting I hate.

“Dude, whoa!  What are you doing?”

I lower the gun.  “Look, it’s complicated.  My mother’s divorced.  She’s lonely.  There are these guys … they want me to like them because she won’t like them unless I like them.  So… I have to shoot you.”

“Dude!”

“Sorry.”

The boom hurts my ears and the recoil hurts my shoulder.  The leader explodes in a comical cloud of feathers.  Dirt flies in all directions, stinging my face and hands.  As the dirt and feathers settle, I see two of the other birds writhing on the ground.  The rest have disappeared.

Panicked quail cries issue from all corners.  “What the fuck?  What the fuck?”  Quail begin running back and forth among the vines.  More gun blasts ring out.  Expanding clouds of BBs whoosh through the air and I take cover by pressing close to a gnarled vine.

Six dead birds, two of them mine, are laid out on the hood of the pickup. The mangled corpses are caked with blood-mud and full of tooth-cracking BBs. I know there was a seventh, but nothing is left of him for us to pretend we’re going to eat.

We arrive back home with the two corpses I made. Hippie-redneck boyfriend failed to kill, but that doesn’t bother him. We’re not provident hunters returning from the savannah with nourishment for the tribe. This is all ritual. What’s important is that I was successful, and he is excited about that. The quail were never the point of the escapade, they were innocent bystanders, props in a purely human drama. Or, actually, I guess it’s a romantic comedy. I don’t know. I’m just the adorable moppet.

What matters is that he led me out into the world to kill things, and then brought me home safe. Now he can check that off the list and move on to something involving my little sister and a pony ride, or whatever. Everybody wins. Well, except for the birds, of course.

It is a part of my identity since I was very young that I am smarter than everybody else. It will be years before I question that belief. And even though I know as much about sex as I know about Swahili, the subjects of my observations are terrible actors who have all agreed to pretend they’re fooling each other. It’s easy, from backstage, to see what they have agreed not to see. I know that eventually my mother will shut the whole thing down by simply breaking the fourth wall.

In the meantime, for all my arrogance and attitude, it’s hard not to like the hippie-redneck boyfriends. They are all so smitten with my melancholy Mom, and so determined to make her happy. I can’t help but be moved by how these shaggy strays are so eager to make a place for themselves in our humble, forlorn, father-forsaken home. I can’t help but root for them, whatever the hell it is they think they’re doing.

The crater my father left is huge, and deep, and no hippie-redneck boyfriend could possibly fill it, although a couple will get big points for effort, and for the unexpected dignity they show when my mother finally sends them on their way. But most of the time they are gentle and kind and smile at me a lot, and that’s probably more helpful than I would admit.

My mother, who worries about everything, worries that I need a father-figure to replace my absent father-father. The strays are eager to prove they are up to the challenge. My nascent manhood becomes their project. They will teach me what it means to be a man, because that will prove something to my mother.

But my father has already taught me the most important lesson. The idea of manhood everybody is trying to sell me is a myth, a charade. It’s all talk. It’s a flattering story men tell themselves about themselves.

So while the hippie-redneck boyfriends show me guns and booze and tools and car engines – the fashion accessories of manhood – I watch and I think.

And I realize that they all believe that being a man means not being a woman. Being a man is all about vigilance against any hint of femininity, as if spontaneous invagination is a constant threat.

But early on I somehow arrive at the radical conclusion that being a man means not being a boy. It’s obviously not a conclusion shared by many men. They are all very busy not being women, and it seems to me that it is precisely when they think they are being most manly that they are behaving most like boys.

And it’s often when they feel emasculated that they seem to me most like men. When my mother shatters the illusion and tells them it’s over, for instance, and they have to deal with the undeniable emotions of that moment. When they manage that well, that’s when I am most proud of them. That’s when I experience the rare desire to be like them. I want the ability to rule my sadness and anger, not to deny it but to make deliberate choices about how it will affect my behavior and where it fits into my priorities. I see the anger and the hurt they feel at being rejected, but they know that they love us, or believe they do, and they manage to keep everything centered on that in the final, bitter moments. That’s when I finally love them in return, as they turn to leave quietly.

And I think that all these ideas are probably exactly what my mother is worried about.

But tonight hippie-redneck boyfriend is riding high. He knows his doom, but his life right now is all about pretending he has everything under control. He takes a beer from the fridge and winks at me as he passes, because we have the secret of the warm beer in the pickup.

He lights the fake campfire in the living room and it glows cold blue and speaks, telling us a funny story about two young women in Milwaukee, a city filled with beer and laughs. I take my seat on the floor in front of the fire and play my peripheral role in our domestic theater, pretending to watch the fire but thinking about the birds and why they had to die.

My mother has probably already thrown the dead birds in the garbage.

Originally posted to Max Udargo on Tue Jul 22, 2014 at 08:59 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  a new take on quail hunting! (7+ / 0-)

    My dad never took me fishing or hunting, wasn't interested.  Had to teach myself...

    But to each his own; my 21 year old son told me the other day he would sit out this hunting season, having become "pro life" in that sense.

  •  Really like how you put all those thoughts (19+ / 0-)

    in your head into words that convey them so precisely. Thanks.

    Shall we go? Yes, let's go.

    by whenwego on Tue Jul 22, 2014 at 09:14:22 AM PDT

  •  I have not hunted birds for a very long time (12+ / 0-)

    but I never shot a bird when it was roosting or walking, only flying.
    Something to think about if you go bird Hunting/Shooting again.
    This usually results in less pellets in the bird and therefore it's more edible.
    To shoot something edible and then throw it away is not goal worthy.

    "If you tell the truth, you won't have to remember anything", Mark Twain

    by Cruzankenny on Tue Jul 22, 2014 at 09:40:45 AM PDT

    •  True, and in TX game birds (6+ / 0-)

      by law must be 'on the wing' before pulling the trigger

    •  I'll remember that (9+ / 0-)

      the next time I go quail hunting.

      •  Which I expect will be right after you go unicorn (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Max Udargo

        hunting.

        For the life of me, though, I don't understand why the state of Texas gives a damn about whether a bird is "on the wing" when you shoot it.  I suppose it's to give the bird a "sporting" chance.

        Too bad they don't have that same attitude toward people.

        Ted Cruz president? Pardon my Vietnamese, but Ngo Pho King Way.

        by ZedMont on Wed Jul 23, 2014 at 07:41:56 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  no, fair chase hunting is to give other hunters (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          happy camper

          a more equal chance at harvesting game, a hunt with less than 100% chance of success does this. To the animal it makes no difference if it is killed by your cat, flying into a window, the developer who robbed it of habitat to make the housing development that most people live in, or a homemade arrow shot from a traditional bow.

          “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

          by ban nock on Wed Jul 23, 2014 at 08:39:30 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  This was not OK, not at all (8+ / 0-)

      First of all, guns and alcohol do not mix.  When the beer come out, the guns have to stay in their cases for the rest of the day - period.  You don't go into the field with someone who has been drinking, whatever your alcohol consumption has been and whatever male bonding and redneck boyfriend humoring you may think is going on.  And of course, beer and driving is a bad idea too.  If you can't do anything else, walk home, or call a friend for a ride.  No shit, bad outcomes from these sorts of things are not unusual events.  I wasn't worried about my kids hunting in these sorts of circumstances, but we sure had the talk about getting out of the car and calling for help.  

      There was another really important rule violated here: the gun is not even mounted, much less fired, if the bird isn't framed against the sky.  We're not just talking about being on the wing, it has to have sky all around it.  And never is the bird shot on the ground.  There are a bunch of reasons for this, starting with the fact that it is hard to imagine shooting your friend in the face if it is followed (if there were humor in it, now would be the time for a Dick Cheney joke, but my disgust for that crime is bottomless).  It's also unsporting, and unethical.  I could go on.  

      Finally, eating what you shoot is part of the deal.  Whatever the sex roles your mother and her boyfriend were playing out in the presentation of the birds, you shot 'em.  The obligation to draw, pluck or skin, and make them ready for cooking falls to you.  And, if you knew your mom wouldn't or couldn't cook them, that is your job too.  If you elect to participate in a hunt, accept that eating what you shoot is an essential part of the whole participation in wildness that is at the heart of doing it ethically.  

      Besides, quail are delicious.  Two birds isn't going to be enough for more than few bites for all concerned, but its not hard to prepare.  When in doubt, saute in butter with a bit of garlic (and a little light seasoning if you want it to be a bit more savory).  Enjoy.

      •  You need to understand (10+ / 0-)

        that this all happened in the 1970s. At that time, nobody used a gun unless they were also drinking and smoking at the same time. It was the law, enforced by the ATF. Things changed later when the wusses at the NRA ruined it for everybody.

        As far as only shooting a bird after it has taken wing... that always seemed more difficult. You're probably better at this than I was.

        I did once put some birdshot in cousin Larry's leg on a quail hunt and, you're right, it was because I was shooting at some quail that were walking between us and didn't see him until he jumped up screaming.

        But I was sober. The problem was that nobody had yet realized that I needed glasses. Cousin Larry was nobody's favorite so the problem wasn't resolved until it began to affect my grades.

        •  Thank you (5+ / 0-)

          For your wicked sense of humor and your exceptional writing.

          "Those who fail to learn from History are doomed to repeat 11th grade"

          by Dave925 on Wed Jul 23, 2014 at 03:28:54 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  I understand the point of your writing and I (5+ / 0-)

          enjoyed it. I'm sure others did as well.
          I had to comment on the shooting at birds not on the wing and the resultant not eating. I didn't touch the drinking and I wont.
          I have one more comment based on you shooting Cousin Larry in the leg with birdshot.
          In the 70's, when you were hunting, shotgun pellets were made of lead. I had a friend who shot his father in the calf while going through a barbed wire fence. The pellets were so small, when they entered the calf, they also entered the bloodstream and ended up in places medical science did not attempt to reach at the time. So he watched his father's calf atrophy whilst watching him die from lead poisoning due to pellets lodged in various organs.
          I was in the South China Sea when he died and when I returned, my days of killing anything warm blooded on purpose were over.

          "If you tell the truth, you won't have to remember anything", Mark Twain

          by Cruzankenny on Wed Jul 23, 2014 at 06:11:57 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Wow. I did not know that. Had I known it I would (0+ / 0-)

            have avoided my relatives.

            Ted Cruz president? Pardon my Vietnamese, but Ngo Pho King Way.

            by ZedMont on Wed Jul 23, 2014 at 07:44:59 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Are you trying to make me feel bad (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Ender, novapsyche, nswalls, FindingMyVoice

            about shooting my relatives?

            That's a terrible story. I do remember somebody mentioning lead poisoning when I shot Larry, but I don't think anybody saw it as a serious concern. God knows Larry was prone to bad luck, and getting shot that day was barely a blip. Years later he'd accidentally set himself on fire, but that didn't kill him either. Meth finally did him in, just a couple of years ago.

            By the way, since we're sharing safety tips: If you're a truck driver and you're hauling granulated sugar in one of those funnel-shaped trailers, don't try to adjust the hatch at the bottom of the trailer with a lit cigarette in your mouth. Turns out "sugar dust" is highly combustible. And burning sugar dust is sticky.

            Anyway, my birdshot barely broke the skin on Larry's leg, as best I remember. My grandfather burst into action, instantly whipping out his trusty pocket knife and going to work. I'm convinced that Grandpa, who owned a trucking company, had secret dreams of being a surgeon. Any time one of the kids got a splinter, he flashed that pocket knife and went to work with an unhinged glee. I suspect being operated upon by my grandfather was more painful than being shot, and produced more blood. But I also think it ensured that Larry's leg was lead-free.

            In my youth, gun safety amounted to people occasionally saying, "don't point that thing at me." They'd all be standing around with a loaded gun or rifle in one hand and a can of beer in the other, but as long as the barrels were pointing at inanimate objects they saw themselves as models of firearm safety, I'm sure.

            I mean, I don't even know what he means when salmo says, "the gun is not even mounted, much less fired, if the bird isn't framed against the sky." Mounted? Does that mean raised to the shoulder? These kids today and their firearm safety rules.

            I do appreciate these asides. I wouldn't want this diary entry to encourage or validate unsafe behavior with guns. We've got enough of that in our society.

            But it was the 70s. You should have seen the clothes we wore.

            •  I don't mean to diminish your diary's ammusement (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Max Udargo, FindingMyVoice

              Yeah, mounting means raised to the shoulder in preparation for aiming.  In the process, the safety is released, but the finger still hasn't moved to the trigger. With a hammer double, the hammers are cocked as the gun is raised, but the rule on the trigger is the same.  With some serious dog people, the gun isn't loaded until the dog is staunchly on point, and only birds pointed and flushed on command are shot at, in the air, framed against the sky.  I remember one explaining to me that you can be lucky at love, and lucky at cards, but with his dogs, you have to call your shots.  The first order of business is not shooting the dogs and reinforcing their training.  Rules of safety and ethics are as old as the hunt, and they can be quite complex.  We start with safety though, since forever.

              I can't claim to have personally witnessed the golden era of American shotgunning, but I did get in on the tail end of it.  I started hunting in the 50's.  I bought my first shotgun in 1959.  I got to be a stickler for this stuff having learned from people who were really serious about safety, and then learning from the mistakes of others - second hand, which is the best way.    

              •  I should obviously drop my oldtimer schtick (5+ / 0-)

                if you've been hunting since the 50s.

                In all seriousness, your comments highlight how little gun safety was emphasized among my family and others who I know considered themselves "gun people" and part of a proud hunting tradition. Of course it's an exaggeration that they always drank while hunting, but it was certainly not unheard of. And the only safety rule I remember was never to point the gun at anybody, even if you believed it was unloaded. There were many stories about this uncle almost shooting that uncle, or a bullet or buckshot whizzing by somebody's head. I know I sometimes ducked for cover, as in my story.

                But as best I can remember I'm the only one who ever hit anybody. Now that I think about it, that may have been the last time I was invited to hunt. I can't say I missed it. Not my cup of tea.

                Maybe I should have shot Larry sooner. I know that sounds awful, but you never met Larry.

        •  Wow Max! (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Max Udargo

          I did not see this about hunting and all it's peculiarities, but why was this what most of the men seemed to see .

          This was about how manhood is so erroneously defined by men. Hunting was merely the vehicle that you used to drive home the point that manhood is not about killing something.

           Yes, killing something to prove that one is a man is childish,wasteful and destructive.

          I loved the part where you made the point that most men define manhood as not being a woman and possessing the traits by which they "suppose" , I feel, women are to be defined.

          Maybe if we defined manhood correctly we could stop having to duck the bullets and stop the violence.

  •  Thanks for writing this, I was engaged reading it. (13+ / 0-)

    Interesting tale of life (and death).  I held out hope for the quail to the end, even hoping they might wind up getting dressed and eaten.  I could not bring myself to do that.  It's hard enough for me to dispatch a Salmon with a club, but at least I know the fish will be eaten and enjoyed.

    I hope I encounter more of your writing in the future.

    "Slavery is the legal fiction that a person is property. Corporate personhood is the legal fiction that property is a person." David Korten, When Corporations Rule the World

    by Delta Overdue on Tue Jul 22, 2014 at 09:53:30 AM PDT

  •  This story had me engaged. I was holding out hope (5+ / 0-)

    for the quail to the end.  After the killing, I was hoping they at least would get cleaned and eaten.

    I could not bring myself to kill with a gun.  It's hard for me to kill a salmon with a club, but at least I know the fish will be eaten and enjoyed.

    Thanks for sharing this.  I hope to encounter more of your writing in the future

    "Slavery is the legal fiction that a person is property. Corporate personhood is the legal fiction that property is a person." David Korten, When Corporations Rule the World

    by Delta Overdue on Tue Jul 22, 2014 at 10:00:27 AM PDT

  •  beautifully written, Max. (12+ / 0-)

    thoroughly enjoyed this, first sentence to last!

    There is no worse enemy of God and Man than zeal armed with power and guided by a feeble intellect... --William James

    by oslyn7 on Tue Jul 22, 2014 at 10:49:54 AM PDT

  •  A 16 gauge shotgun can kill you but a BB gun can (6+ / 0-)

    only shoot your eye out.

    Slow thinkers - keep right

    by Dave the Wave on Tue Jul 22, 2014 at 12:43:03 PM PDT

  •  Awesome writing, Max. (17+ / 0-)

    You have the bard's gift.  Green pearls; fake campfire.  The conversation with the quail.  These will stay with me for a long time.  Good job, and thanks for sharing.

    Your essay on the nature of masculinity - its inherent silliness and potential self-contradiction - and the fragility of (most) male egos is also incisive and insightful.  The aside about the hubris of youth is also great reading.

    Do you write for money?  I think you could.

    Thanks again.

    Not all people are human; not all humans are people.

    by Jon Sitzman on Tue Jul 22, 2014 at 12:48:32 PM PDT

    •  Thank you (11+ / 0-)

      I also think I could write for money. Unfortunately, nobody with money agrees.

      The closest I came to writing for money was many years ago when a radio station manager asked me to write "copy." But it was a new station trying (and ultimately failing) to establish itself, and he was doing a lot of horse trading. So he could only pay me with gift certificates for car washes and haircuts and restaurant meals. But it was fun to listen to the station and hear the DJs reading my copy, although it meant listening to a station that exclusively played music from movie musicals.

      (With a capital T and that rhymes with P and that stands for POOL!)

      I was a one trick pony when it came to writing copy, and that one trick was alliteration: "Feed the family and have fun on Fish Fry Friday!"

      And now I'm regretting not using "purple pearls." Oh well, I remember all of the vineyards having what we called "Thompson Seedless" grapes, which were green. Still, purple would have been better.

      •  It reads wonderfully well as it is. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        ZedMont, Max Udargo

        Visual art evokes emotion; written art evokes imagery that evokes emotion.  I think green pearls is better, honestly.  I saw what you were describing, that means you did your job.  :^)

        I wish you luck in establishing a writing career (or at least source of income).  I too am seeking money for artistic endeavor (or about to be), so luck to us both!

        Not all people are human; not all humans are people.

        by Jon Sitzman on Wed Jul 23, 2014 at 06:38:46 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  manhood is not all quiet struggle (5+ / 0-)

    I think there's a big sociological gap between men at work and men at play, and the funny thing is that - in other circles at least - women frequently complain that the men in their lives never show any "boyish" whimsy or enthusiasm and instead grimly march through everything (and everyone) like a chore.  But like you imply, it is women after all who expect men to be solemn and dutiful and never let his own desires get in the way of what women need and want from him, and oftentimes what men feel they need to protect from the social advances of women is places and times to take the tight and starchy uniform off and kick back.

    It's also true that not everything men do is about trying to get into women's beds.  Hunting in particular is far more likely to genuinely be about the boyfriend, his friends, and you than it is to cynically be about your mom.

    Domestic politics is the continuation of civil war by other means.

    by Visceral on Tue Jul 22, 2014 at 01:20:09 PM PDT

    •  I'm sure you're right. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      FindingMyVoice

      The idea was to write this from my perspective at the time, framed by later understanding.

      I've no doubt some of those guys genuinely liked me, just as I genuinely liked them, and they weren't being cynical in trying to play a role in my life. But if I've learned anything it's that human motives are complex and subtle things, and most of us don't fully understand our own motives in most situations, much less anybody else's. Separating an affection for me from their aspirations regarding my mother would have been impossible, I think. Human emotions usually don't have distinct, well-defined boundaries.

      The problem was that even if I liked them I would always be fundamentally resentful of the fact that there could even be such a thing as "Mom's boyfriend." They were usurpers. Kind, caring usurpers, but still usurpers. There was no way around that, emotionally.

  •  Fucking excellent, Max (14+ / 0-)

    It's damn hard being a hippie-redneck. You've gotta feel for those guys.

    “Industry does everything they can and gets away with it almost all the time, whether it’s the coal industry, not the subject of this hearing, or water or whatever. They will cut corners, and they will get away with it. " Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D, WVa

    by FishOutofWater on Tue Jul 22, 2014 at 01:51:37 PM PDT

  •  Gorgeous writing. Thanks for this story- eom (6+ / 0-)

    "You are not even aware of what is possible. The extent of their capabilities is horrifying."Edward Snowden -6.62, -6.92

    by CanyonWren on Tue Jul 22, 2014 at 02:40:06 PM PDT

  •  Amazing. (11+ / 0-)

    Thoughtful, poignant, well considered, and well-written.  And a pretty perceptive commentary on the whole redneck thing.  Although you forget to give manliness points in the first place for having the courage to step into a fraught situation and try to make it better for everyone in it.  Sure, they may start out motivated by libido but that won't carry you successfully through your first go-round trying to get to know the lady's kids, I'm sure.  So it's not a "boy" kind of thing.

    He knows his doom, but his life right now is all about pretending he has everything under control.
    That's quite possibly the quintessential redneck quality.  The doom may vary, but pretending it's under control is an absolute requirement.

    I support a Biblical definition of marriage. When do I get my concubines and second wife?

    by jackdabastard on Tue Jul 22, 2014 at 04:46:47 PM PDT

  •  So good. (9+ / 0-)

    SO good.

    Almost everything you do will seem insignificant, but it is most important that you do it.

    by The Termite on Tue Jul 22, 2014 at 04:54:44 PM PDT

  •  Excellent storytelling (7+ / 0-)

    Engaging to say the least, with superb imagery. The defining of the dividing line between manhood and all else is a great insight.

    Thank you for the prose.

  •  Thank you. (7+ / 0-)

    This is a terrific story. And it generated a long discussion here at Palazzo Emmet about what it means to be a man, and what it means to be a woman.  I think you nailed it w/r/t being a man, as well as anyone I've read.

  •  Great stuff, Max (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Max Udargo, FarWestGirl, ZedMont, 47songs

    Well written, but goddam well felt.
    You felt that well-aimed hurt, my friend, and how fucking STUPID and artificially large-balls it truly is.
    love your writing and love your mind, hope you get published and paid!

  •  Superb writing. I'm going to share this with my (6+ / 0-)

    teenage son.  Hmmm.  :)  Some thoughts that came to mind reading your lovely diary:

    Watching our son as he's making his transition from boyhood to manhood, I've been repeatedly struck by how this is perceived to be a "real thing," or "process."  As a woman, I can't say I was ever aware that I was transitioning from girlhood to womanhood, as a thing, or process I had to make.

    Googling "boyhood to manhood book" there are 589,000 results; whereas, for "girlhood to womanhood book" there are 130,000 results -- with oddly enough the first page of links being about Queen Victoria's passage. Truly strange that. But, just looking at this gross sort of research, it would seem that I'm not alone as a woman who was never really uncertain or challenged with stage or passage; yet, it appears as if this is really some sort of real thing for males.

    Your insight that some, perhaps many, men seem to perceive this process as being acting in non-female ways is very interesting

    And I realize that they all believe that being a man means not being a woman. Being a man is all about vigilance against any hint of femininity, as if spontaneous invagination is a constant threat.
    Your insight that this is not the case is also very interesting:
    But early on I somehow arrive at the radical conclusion that being a man means not being a boy.
    Becoming an adult -- male or female -- means not being a child.  A child depends on others for their survival and often self-regulation and guidance; whereas, an adult takes care of themselves.  I would even take that another step and propose that to be fully grown, an adult must have the capacity to care for others, as well.  

    Does that mean that an adult who can not care form themselves in all ways (e.g. due to a disability, injury, infirmity, or economic disaster) is not an adult.  No, not at all.  An adult may depend on others for some aspects of survival, but the adult in that situation still recognizes and embraces their personal responsibility for self-control and direction.

    the ability to rule my sadness and anger, not to deny it but to make deliberate choices about how it will affect my behavior and where it fits into my priorities.
    Thank you.  I love thought provoking pieces.  Well done, and i encourage you to continue with your writing.  You have a real and specail voice that comes through.  I'll be looking for and forward to reading your work in the future!

    Plutocracy (noun) Greek ploutokratia, from ploutos wealth; 1) government by the wealthy; 2) 21st c. U.S.A.; 3) 22nd c. The World

    by bkamr on Tue Jul 22, 2014 at 08:45:25 PM PDT

    •  That's interesting (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ichibon, bkamr, FarWestGirl

      because I've always thought there was a transitional "process" for females as well, and that, if anything, it was more defined because of the demanding biological transition. I just always assumed it was handled in a more private, pragmatic way involving a series of quiet discussions and explanatory demonstrations, with less noise and fewer dead birds.

      •  Girls do not become women with the onset of (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FarWestGirl, nicteis, Max Udargo

        menstruation or growing breasts.

        White girls in the U.S. now menstruate at an average age of 12.6 years; African American girls at 12.1 years; and Latinas at 12.2 years.
        In the U.S., 50% of White girls now show signs of breast budding before age 10, with as many as 14% showing breast development by age 8. The average age of breast budding for African American girls is just under 9 years, with a significant percentage of thelarche development before age 8.
        Link

        12 year olds and 10 year olds are obviously not women.  :) It's not the physical changes, but rather the mental, character and emotional development you percieved to be at play just as you recognized in males.

        Plutocracy (noun) Greek ploutokratia, from ploutos wealth; 1) government by the wealthy; 2) 21st c. U.S.A.; 3) 22nd c. The World

        by bkamr on Wed Jul 23, 2014 at 12:55:20 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Great writing as usual, Max. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FarWestGirl, mHainds, Max Udargo

    Not a hunter, although, I have killed long ago, back when I thought that was the manly thing to do. (a very long time ago, thankfully)
    In fact, that part of the story was hard for me to read, but the writing was good enough to keep me reading, which is saying a lot, as I really hate even the thought of killing things, especially for "sport", a fact that made me give up eating flesh a very long time ago.
    Reading this made me me go back and read another of your diaries, the one about the ex Marine, who bragged about working 70 hours a week.
    I've often wondered if he ever saw and read that, and if so, did your words give him pause, and maybe rethink the way his life was going.
    Keep writing Max, you're good.

    Severely Socialist 47283

    by ichibon on Wed Jul 23, 2014 at 12:25:41 AM PDT

  •  Exquisite writing, Max! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ZedMont, mHainds, Max Udargo

    Thank you for sharing your talent and wit. I'm forwarding this to my son who will relate and appreciate it.

  •  The sin was wasting the quail. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Max Udargo

    But sharing the story and quality writing is a form of atonement.

    I'll put on my glasses.... and tell you how sweet your ass is. (w/ apologies to Señor Bega)

    by mHainds on Wed Jul 23, 2014 at 07:27:05 AM PDT

  •  Reccing this for selfish reasons (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mHainds

    Because then it will show up on the rec list on my profile page, and it'll be easier to find when I want to read it again. And then read it aloud to my kin and kith.

    The real USA Patriot Act was written in 1789. It's called the Bill of Rights.

    by nicteis on Wed Jul 23, 2014 at 08:02:04 AM PDT

  •  As a Hippie, I utterly reject the characterization (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Max Udargo

    please do not equate hippies with yahoos
    hippies were into love not hate
    bongs not bullets
    music not machine guns
    anyone can have long hair
    and questionable hygiene
    these were not hippies. Please.

    I do not use "redneck". Rednecks were originally union members in the mines of West Virginia, who wore red kerchiefs around their necks as a symbol of unity. They were derided, beaten, etc, etc, by the mine owners and all their anti-union thuggery.  "Redneck" became an insult at the behest of the fascist mine owners. Don't play into their hands after almost a hundred years of intervening history.

    My hunting story began and ended with me looking at the bird and feeling sick that I could potentially hurt it. I never tried again. No comical cloud of feathers, ha ha, isn't that funny, vaporized bird.

    Bah. Sorry to pee on your diary but you peed on my sensibilities.

  •  *Great* diary Max (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Max Udargo, FindingMyVoice

    You are a very wise man.

  •  Redneck hippies used to be common (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Max Udargo

    in Southern California, but no more.

    I think a lot of them grew up, others moved to cheaper locales and are probably on disability.  I kinda miss them.

  •  Did you find the answer? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Max Udargo
    thinking about the birds and why they had to die.
    From your story, I think the birds had to die so you could please your mother's temporary boyfriend by letting him think he had helped you to "become a man."

    But maybe you came to regret that you did not say 'no' to him instead of aiming to please.

  •  This is sad but also incredibly beautiful (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Max Udargo, FindingMyVoice

    and very evocative. You have a rare ability as a writer.

    Thank you for sharing this -- and yes, I hate any sort of hunting as well.

    "We are stardust, we are golden, and we've got to get ourselves back to the garden." (Joni Mitchell)

    by Eowyn9 on Wed Jul 23, 2014 at 07:22:46 PM PDT

  •  Amazing writing. Pros who don't understand (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Max Udargo

    must not be readers, because your writing has immediate impact and is extremely fluid.

    Harper Collins recognized Veronica Roth's Divergent series. Maybe they would like your writing.

    I'm for truth, no matter who tells it. I'm for justice, no matter who it's for or against. ~ Malcolm X -8.62 -8.36

    by 4Freedom on Thu Jul 24, 2014 at 12:57:35 PM PDT

  •  Great writing. Thanks. nt (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Max Udargo
  •  Opened it because of peer pressured hunting. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Max Udargo

    Loved it because of talking quail.

    Will remember it because of boys becoming men.

    Mourned for the uneaten kill.

    Will follow for the tag, "bored chinese guys playing with dirt."

    Well done. I've also got a story of quail hunting, but I tell it better in the spoken word format after a few beers (cold only), or so I think.

    "Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen." Winston Churchill (Before the internet.)

    by New Jersey Boy on Thu Jul 24, 2014 at 08:26:47 PM PDT

  •  I'm tired of being THE HIPPIE hunted by Rednecks (0+ / 0-)

    80 % of Success is Just Showing Up!

    by Churchill on Fri Jul 25, 2014 at 04:50:35 AM PDT

  •  NeoCons hunt hippies: they need something to hunt (0+ / 0-)

    its' nothing personal

    80 % of Success is Just Showing Up!

    by Churchill on Fri Jul 25, 2014 at 04:51:18 AM PDT

  •  Sorry, had to (0+ / 0-)

    Dood

    No light, no dark, no up, no down. No life. No time. Without end. My people called it The Void. The Eternals called it The Howling. But some people call it The Tea Party.

    by kamrom on Fri Jul 25, 2014 at 02:47:32 PM PDT

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