G is a vegan.
Her kids and my kids became friends at Montessori. On our first few play dates, we talked a lot about meat, about hunting, about her experience training as a veterinarian in factory farms. We talked about killing, and sadness, and nutrition, and exercise, and parenting, and guns. We talked about gardening. The deer were hammering her garden and Yes, I’d like to help.
Last year, I took two does in the first two hours of gun season on their 10 acres in central New York. If God came down and waved his little finger and said, “With this I make 10 perfect whitetail acres,” it would be G’s place — all overgrown orchard and brush lot. I gave G and her family one of those deer, reduced to a cardboard box and butcher paper. They weren’t necessarily reluctant but asked a lot of questions about cooking.
Then, that thing happened. That thing that hunters know but is so hard to articulate. That feeling that comes with eating honest food from land you own, land you worked at, land you love. That feeling of watching your children eat it and love it and grow.
This year, G borrowed my rifle and my bibs. She killed her first deer by herself last week. We’d seen nothing the morning we sat together, and when I left she kept sitting. And kept sitting. And kept sitting until it happened.
This weekend she bought her first rifle. We sighted it in at my place Sunday afternoon. I asked if she wanted to go sit the last two hours while Rocio and I watched the kids. She did, and 15 minutes later her second deer was down. When I got there, the deer was dressed, her tiny veterinarian scalpel at rest on the hide. We hugged and bumped fists. She told me the story. She was shaking so bad, she had to put the rifle down. Waited for the shakes to pass. “I spent my whole life trying to save animals, and now this …” She trailed off.
It was an easy drag over the snow to the dirt road and my tractor. G stood on the hitch arms, the deer in the loader, as we slow crawled back to the house. We put the deer in my pickup, so she could take it to the butcher. We stood at the tailgate and looked at her deer.
“I’m so happy,” G said, wiping at her eyes. “I don’t understand it. I’m so fucking happy.”
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