My husband said, “We have nothing in common.” What a ridiculous statement, rationalization, excuse. There are things we have in common. And if there is not enough, then you embrace new ones together. It can be hard, though, if you seem to have only one real passion.
What we never had in common was hunting. You know what I did like, though? Fishing. I always liked fishing. My mother-in-law never liked hunting either, but she liked fishing too. My in-laws would be down on Buffalo Creek on that first day of trout. They took the grandchildren fishing then and fishing at their camp in Brookville. My husband and I went fishing with my stepson in Canada before leaving for Arizona. We went fishing once in Arizona with his co-worker/roommate, Lake Roosevelt, I think. My husband went fishing in Mexico with someone else. When we returned home to Pennsylvania, we fished on the farm pond with Jacob and my niece and nephew. That pull on the line was exciting, but I think it was a bit intimidating sometimes with Roy. Hunting and fishing were serious business for him.
I never asked my husband to stop hunting or even curtail the hours and days and weeks away for hunting and fishing trips. I never wanted him to stop. He needed it. It was like air to him. If ever something keeps him from hunting, I don’t know what he will turn to for that same enjoyment. But I saw the damage hunting brought to marriage beginning with his first and then running into ours.
I went dove hunting years ago and felt the kick of that gun on my shoulder. I didn’t hit anything and was petrified when the game warden approached me. I bought snake leggings just for that day of hunting on an Arizona-hot September day with a threat of rattlesnakes. I never was very interested in hunting though. I didn’t grow up around guns or with hunters. The only hunting my father or brother did was groundhogs in the farm fields. I did find this old picture of my maternal grandfather’s hunting camp, but he was dead long before I grew up. My husband said once he felt such a disappointment when he stopped to talk to his first wife who was walking along a road in camo pants. He assumed those camo pants meant hunter; they didn’t.
Last year Roy said he just needed to find someone he could hunt with. He had hunted with many people through the years that came and went. Hunting is important for him. He was disappointed that none of his children shared his love of the hunt. It spilled into our life. I told him once recently after Cary’s relapse that hunting was his addiction. He did not disagree with that. It was the focus of his life that sometimes superseded family. He acquired a kennel-full of bird dogs as he had once had a kennel-full of coon dogs. Quite recently he returned to coon hunting that he had given up 34 years ago. He had spent most of the years of his first marriage coon hunting.
I might have liked bird hunting. But his description of those German short hair dogs as tools didn’t seem to fit with my ideas of dogs. I laughed at my grandson imitating my husband screaming “Shut up!” across the yard at those kennel dogs, but his tone bothered me. Maybe that is where Caleb learned ‘shut up’ that he said to me recently. Barking dogs never bothered me; we had no close neighbors. Boots would bark when she was out, and I tuned it out. I thought she was enjoying watching those rabbits, birds, groundhogs and deer just beyond the reach of her rope. She was always tied when she went out alone because she would chase after those animals. She would run to the garage at every chance to taunt those kennel dogs with her freedom. She would chase the guineas. She was not as well-trained or well-behaved as those bird dogs unless she found a collar around her neck. Then she would become most obedient.
I realize that I am closer to the pet lover end of the spectrum of dog owners than many hunters may be. I know that bird dogs have a purpose and are bred for the hunt and live for that chance.