Noun: A person who lacks the courage to do or endure dangerous or unpleasant things.
Adjective: Excessively afraid of danger or pain.
Synonyms: Dastard, Recreant, Funk, Craven
Cowardly, Chicken, Hearted, Timid
Noun: 1. The ability to do something that frightens one.
2. Strength in the face of pain or grief.
Synonyms: Bravery, Valor, Pluck, Gallantry, Nerve
It's eleven in the morning. The fog is so thick that I can barely see the tree mere feet from where my skis are waiting patiently to glide peacefully through the man-made fluff. This is the first time I had seen snow this year, aside from the random photograph from home and while it makes me smile like a manic clown, I also feel homesick, wishing that North Carolina could magically transform into New York for a day. DU is already halfway down the mountain, his wake carving elongated Cs, a curvature I am to follow. The last time skis were strapped to these legs, my parents weren't divorced, my brother was by my side and I had yet to be kissed. Life then was simpler, extremely far removed from where I stand, 13 years later.
Back then, I never really changed course, nor did I feel the need for poles. I simply would exit the lift, go straight down the mountain, float back atop the land and glide right back down. I would do this for hours, never really understanding why my fellow snow bunnies felt the need to turn when going straight was just so much easier. Today, however, barreling down this mountain sans turning would ultimately lead to a very lifeless huntress, sprawled out against a tree, an illustration that shows that the wayward ideals of youth, if brought to adulthood, can be reckless at best. So, with DU as my guide, I learned how to carve. It really wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. I took a tumble or two, crossed the boards strapped to my feet more than a few times, but I eventually got it. Knees together, ankles parallel, use the edge, not the whole ski, enjoy nature, end run.
When we began our day, I refused to try a black diamond. The courses with the green labels I ignored completely, as I didn't see myself as "beginner" as those children with their polka-dotted onesies. I was comfortable with the blue ones, those meant for the middle-of-the-road skier, one who knows what he or she is doing but doesn't feel that doing a black diamond will really prove anything, except how to break a leg, femur or two. DU, an expert at the craft, insisted that I at least try one black diamond before we leave. I agreed, hoping that his bionic body, made of a whole lot of metal that gets angry when assaulted by cold temperatures, would give up before mine would. Of course, it didn't and now I'm standing here, watching his retreating form and praying that I don't break a leg, literally.
Peering over the side of the steep incline, I watched as skiers descended from the upper black diamond to the lower. Once the coast was clear, I propelled my skis forward and began to slide. My skis began to do what they're made to do, go down a mountain covered in snow. They went this way, and then that, crossed, uncrossed and had a rocking old time while their operator looked on, horrified as the ground whizzed past. Normally, this is where my tale would end, a screaming huntress flying down the mountain at record speeds, taking with her a whole host of angry characters, raging from young to old, novice to expert, ending in a bloody massacre akin to anything Sir Jack the Ripper performed. However, I, with all the strength I could muster from the day's events, straightened the boards, commanded them to do my bidding, and began to ski. My cowardice vanished, in its place, courage.
Recently, I started a Pinterest account in order to share wedding ideas with my future mother-in-law, maids of honor, and mom. Just like any good idea, it began quite pleasantly. I added pictures of the venue, ideas for centerpieces, and, of course, a bunch of stuff about hunting. I felt pretty good about Pinterest until I was directed to a collection by an eloquent women, a series called, "On My [Expletive] List". Underneath it, a gaggle of pins about hunting, all things "redneck", and pictures of political figures the woman in question obviously disliked. The images were blurry, classless, and, to be crude about it, revolting*. I would have written her lovely page off as amusing until I read the caption under a shot of the first edition of Bow America, an e-mag that I will be contributing to in the coming months. The caption read: Coward.
This, obviously, made me pause. A few of my twitterbuds commented, attacking the woman's statement and her attitude towards our ancient passion. I mulled it over and wrote simply, "Personally, I would rather eat what God has created rather than what man has tampered". I went on to advise the creator that if she did indeed eat meat, then she is one of the biggest hypocrites and should evaluate what she pins before she posts it. An e-mail notification came hours later when the profound individual replied back, "If you don't like my [expletive] pins, don't follow them". No educated response to our statements, no defending her point of view, no fundamental reason why we were cowards and she the hero, nothing except cloddish language and a harsh command.
I, as well as the hunters I know, do not subscribe to the definition explained above. We, as far as I know, are not cowards. We do not shrink back in terror when faced with danger nor do we cover our eyes when put in front of an unpleasant situation. In fact, it seems the very nature of hunting, it being a dangerous adventure that puts humans and animals alike in unpleasant situations, is the antithesis of cowardice.
This next paragraph may read like a broken record but for the sake of my argument, it must be written. Every day, animals are killed in a sacrifice to the human stomach, that's a fact. They're killed in a variety of ways from electrocution, to drowning, to throat slitting and the like. The parts are then processed, put into little bags and bought up by those who would rather see their food sans feathers. It is generally, in my experience at least, those individuals who have a problem with hunters. I assume, since the nameless woman above did not have pins speaking out against animal cruelty or the 101 reasons why being an orthodox vegetarian is the best and most moral way to live, she is one of those meat-eaters. They see hunters as dastards because we hunt animals who can't defend themselves, who look cute in backyards. We, the bloodthirsty few, who yearn to make hunting a bloodbath of fun, a murder if you will, a horrible death for any animal who walks in our path.
What the lovely Pinterest creature fails to grasp, as well as her meat-eating, organic, animal-rights counterparts, is that hunters akin to my style, seek a quick, painless death for any animal we intend to eat. I don't shove it into a pen, fatten it with hormone-spiked, cheap feed, allow it to live caged its entire life, and kill it, along with thousands of its neighbors, whenever demand spikes. No, reader, God does that work for me. The animals I eat are hormone and chemical free. They walk God's land for as long as He allows. I thank each kill for its sacrifice, I gut the animal with my bare hands and use every part I can in respect for the fallen. I don't hide behind my computer screen, belittling others to make myself feel better. I don't attack individuals who don't eat meat, make pin boards full of pictures of salads and those who eat them with captions like "poisonous", "disgusting", "revolting"**. Respectful I am, coward I am not.
I made it down the black diamond, shockingly, in one piece. The triumph was made all the more sweet when I gazed up the incline and only saw fog, making the peak look even more insurmountable. The path I carved differed greatly from DU's, a lovely testimony to making one's own way in the world. It was there that I remembered how my tracks looked as a child, straight and narrow, naive, stagnant, confined. How elementary it would have been to go along with the flow, believe what was told to me, see myself as superior because I took the easy way, the quick way. But I didn't. I learned, I grew, and I changed. I became courageous in a way many people can't, I fill my own freezer full of food from God's own hand, best of all, I wouldn't have it any other way.