Alice’s Restaurant

“ … I want to kill. I mean, I wanna, I wanna kill. Kill. I wanna, I wanna see, I wanna see blood and gore and guts and veins in my teeth … I mean kill, Kill, KILL, KILL.”

— Arlo Guthrie, “Alice’s Restaurant,” 1967

Coyote Sentinel
Coyote Sentinel, above the Rendezvous Canyon, courtesy of Robin

Killing Coyotes

It was well after the last rifle season and as I recall Dave telling it, he was traveling down the Rendezvous in his big pick-’em-up truck and came up behind a slow-moving, white Subaru. An unfamiliar vehicle. Around here, one becomes familiar with the comings and goings of vehicles that belong. Big Dave watched as the car slowed to a crawl in the middle of the road, and a rifle was thrust out of the driver’s side window.

BLAM! BLAM! BLAM!

What the what? thought Dave (more or less). Mulie season was over and besides, the shooter was discharging from a moving vehicle into private property and near a rancher’s home. Big Dave tooted his horn and waved for the Subaru to pull into a nearby gravel drive. Which it did, oddly enough.

Two men sat in the Subie and one of them said through the open driver’s side window, that they were here from Sedro Woolley to take care of “your problem coyotes.”

Number 1, as Dave was more than happy to point out, we do not have problem coyotes.

Around the valley, we are collectively quite fond of our resident coyotes. They are not overly abundant and their presence helps keep down the rascally rodent populations. They are robust and beautiful. Their haunting yodels accompany our dreams, and one neighbor has enjoyed watching pups play around a nearby den.

Numbers 2, 3 and 4, as Dave was more than happy to point out, you cannot shoot from a fucking moving vehicle. You cannot shoot from a road. You cannot shoot near or into private property.

Next time we will be hunting more than coyotes, threatened the driver, more than likely missing a few teeth and high on meth. Sedro Woolley has a reputation. It is nice that the pass is closed for a good 6 months or more a year: It helps keep out the riff-raff, the coyote killers.

Dave called the county sheriff, and the white Subaru was later pulled over, the occupants given a good finger wagging. But that was it. A lot of good that did. Thanks for nothing, county sheriff. Luckily, our local game enforcement officer took more of an interest. Next time, white Sedro Woolley Subie, watch out. We have your number.

Killing Things for No Damn Good Reason

A while back, I lived in NW, Northwest Montana for a year to-the-day, roughly 30 miles east of Sandpoint Ideehoho, snuggled in betwixt the Cabinet Mountains and the Clark Fork River. I lived in an old log cabin plunked into a stretch of breathtakingly gorgeous inland rainforest. Every damn day I watched myriad wildlife activity right outside the creaking plank door, and sometimes right there on the old splintered porch. (Like the time I awoke at 4 a.m. to a baby moose literally tap-dancing on the porch’s weathered wood. “Hello my baby, hello my honey, hello my ragtime gal …”)

During my one year in NW, Northwest Montana, I watched — and sometimes this was face-to-face-awfully-close-for-comfort watching — black bear and grizzly bear, cougar and coyotes, elk and moose and deer, fisher and pica. I listened to wolves sing in the wee hours. And all of this was right out my door, on the other side of the log walls. It was really cool.

But I will tell you what, around those parts, folks are really into killing things.

During that year, I did a little substitute teaching at the all-ages schoolhouse the next town over, about the only time I was around people, and I grew weary of listening to kids talk about killing critters. Talk of shooting crows just to watch other crows land and scavenge the dead crows, and then shooting those crows too. During rifle season, talk of trying to give away an animal they had just shot because their freezer was already full. Talk of not being able to give away the meat because everybody’s freezers already seemed to be full.

And yet folks just kept right on killing things.

Even the school’s principal bragged about the trip to northern BC he and his wife were planning so they could fly in and bag a polar bear.

Heavenly Jesus.

So please don’t tell me these folks were just trying to feed their families. They were bored and didn’t know what else to do, and hiking the phenomenally scenic trails and majestic mountains without a gun and without the sole purpose of killing something was apparently out of the question.

My friend Alison traveled over a few state lines and stayed with me for a week or so of hiking and exploring. It was well outside of rifle season, any kind of legal hunting season, and she was sickened by the number of fresh deer and other unidentifiable animal carcasses strewn about the otherwise empty trailheads and along USFS roads: Late-Season tags. AKA poaching. I was slowly becoming accustomed to the crazy carnage, but it made me sick, too.

From the get-go, I had intended to devote five years of my life to living in that old log cabin, but I made it merely a year. After my wolfish-looking dog Wolfgang was almost shot twice for hiking Forest Service roads with me and for looking wolfish, and after Wolfy sprung a leg-hold trap set just a few feet off a trail, I knew I needed to leave while we were both still intact. Just too much killing.

Alice’s Restaurant

I borrowed the title for this post from lyrics intended to be anti-war, anti-massacree, but senseless killing is senseless killing in my book. Whether you are hunting man, or needlessly hunting non-human animals, the killing is indeed senseless.

And maybe next time I will write about war …

Moon over the Rendezvous
Moon Over the Rendezvous Canyon

39 thoughts on “Alice’s Restaurant”

  1. I think it really is simply a blood lust sort of thing. It would take just as much skill to sneak up close and take an award winning photo, but for some folks there’s a need to actually kill something…target practice just isn’t good enough. Remnants of Manifest Destiny maybe? Or that multi-millenia old hatred of all things wild and untamed? (I blame the Bible mostly, and that One God sort of thing…the one God who happened to arise in a harsh desert environment where shepherds were always battling the lions and the elements–we’ve never gotten over that one). I dunno. You get a lot of truck hunting around this part of New Mexico, but not too much pointless carnage. The locals around here usually do eat what they poach, although shooting prairie dogs for sport, even within town limits, is perfectly acceptable. The vultures love it.

    1. Chaz,
      Save the prairie dogs! And thanks for your comment. I truly dig that you brought religion into the conversation…
      Dog bless you,
      T.

  2. Thanks, woman. My ex was a Special Forces Viet Nam medic. We were driving forest roads up on the Mogollon Rim and saw one of those ultra fancy trophy mansion hunters’ camps. “I don’t know why the fuck they can’t just come out here and just drink beer,” he said, “besides the only hunting that’s fair sport is human for human. Even bow hunters have weaponry far more sophisticated than that of the animals. ” Yep. Can’t wait to see all the whining responses to your piece – and the pseudo New Agey crap about praying to the animals, giving it a good death, blah blah blah. Ask the animal how it feels.

    1. Amen, Sister Sojourner.
      So many bow hunters take it up to merely extend their hunting season and don’t aim worth shit. I am sick to death of seeing wounded and dead deer strewn about with multiple arrows and wounds in their bodies. It is a cruel, slow and painful death. It is not “more pure”.
      My Papa, as I have written prior, was a Green Beret in Vietnam and said the same thing about the only fair sport being man hunting man. He shot one deer in his life with his father (to feed the family) and was horrified… hanging up for good his hunting rifle.
      Where is the ‘sport’ and the ‘trophy’ in killing an unarmed animal… ungulates being vegetarian to boot!
      Peace and Love, T.

  3. there is a side issue to josh bransford and other trappers. years ago i was hiking the salt river bed n.e. of mesa, arizona my hometown. i was hiking with my australian shepherd when suddenly she stepped in a trap which caught her leg above the paw. she could not xtract it. i had a heck of a time figuring out the trap and getting the jaws open as my normally family friendly canine was threatening to bite my face the closest thing to her. the point, traps are not selective, often the wrong animal is trapped and suffers, let alone the suffering the “right” animal goes thru.

    1. Tom,
      I hope your canine companion escaped serious injury after being trapped.
      V. horrific! My dog Wolfgang miraculously sprung the leg-hold trap in Montana without being caught… he jumped about 5 feet in the air… It was after that experience that I decided to leave the area.
      Visit the site http://www.footloosemontana.org/ they are truly trying to bring about change.
      Peace, T.

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      8. I think this is a great article! As owner & founder of The Office Press, (a human resources company packed full of forms for employers to use to open the lines of communication with their employees) I couldn’t agree more. However, it may be hard to determine on an interview if this person is generally a happy person since they usually put their best foot forward during an interview. Asking them questions about everyday life (keeping in mind legal boundaries) & how they answer them could give great clues to their true personality.

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      10. Yes- I don’t understand either. He was 28- no child and, while I’m willing to forgive him the shock at what he witnessed, he should have been capable of recovering enough of his wits to go to the police. If Paterno had to go, so too should McQueary.

  4. I spent my summers at my grandparents home in Hope, ID before it was a destination (at least regionally anyway). My grandpa went out of his way to lure all minds of wildlife to their property. I remember asking why he was putting out salt blocks for the elk and vegetables and planted berries onthe edge of his property that ended where state land started. “To give them some protection from those ‘damn’ hunters who don’t know nothin’ bout huntin.” we sure saw some amazing animals and the cats and dogs and bears and elk and coyotes all co-existed.

    1. Joseph, I love that your grandpa created Eden instead of Hell. I love that you grew up amidst.all that. I have been to Hope-Ideehoho , and even Beyond Hope, ID. Gorgeous. XO, T.

  5. Go-go Gin Getz! Check out her most current blog post, Stirring up a pile of bones, 20 April, here: http://gingetz.com/2012/04/20/stirring-up-a-pile-of-bones/

    Gin and I shared time and space for a few short months, and now she has left the Methow Valley and returned to her (and Bob’s) ranch up high in the middle of Blessed Nowhere , 30 miles outside of Creede. My loss is Lost Trail’s gain… At least we can keep connected through the written word (they are sans phone but do have internet) and dream of roadtripping.

  6. We need to ban trapping nationwide. Idaho has a lot of natural beauty, impressive wildlife, some good people, and a lot of violent stupid ones who like killing. Visit Wolf People at Cocolalla, about 17 miles south of Sandpoint, for a howling good time with Nancy Taylor and her wolves.

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