Opinion » Maxed Out

Who can say no to free?

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The autumn morning crept in slowly. An unseen sun lightened the eastern sky behind a horizon of black spruce, tamarack and jack pine climax forest, pale blue and crimson fingers chasing the inky darkness of night westward, extinguishing stars along the way. Where cold night air met the warmer water of the lake, mist rose and twisted vapourously, doubling back onto itself in spectral shapes that danced above the mirror-like water. The forest whispered as it awoke.

Upwind of the drifting woodsmoke and lingering smells of coffee, bacon, sweaty humans and stale clothes, a four-year-old bull moose, an animal in the prime of its life, broke the silence of the morning. Splashing at the edge of a small bay at the near end of the lake, a shallow of marsh grass and sedge where land was creeping ahead of the forest to reclaim the water — a place epitomizing Thoreau's description of the north woods: sprucey and moosey — the moose buried his muzzle into the shallow water and drew up mouthfuls of grass and arrowhead and horsetail. Waterfalls cascaded from his mouth and snout as brought his head up to chew.

He ran four hundred pounds easily, tall in the shoulders with a pinched waist and fine, strong, yet spindly looking legs. His coat shone even in the faded light of morning, a deep red-brown mahogany colour that made him look, when he stood still for too long, like some misshapen wooden breakfront.

But it was his antlers that held your attention. They were outlandish, outrageous, cartoonish almost. They were each the size of small children and looked to be at least as unwieldy. Maybe two metres across, they gave the impression that this moose couldn't possibly travel through the woods that was his home, for nowhere would those antlers pass through the forest without raking and catching every other tree and bush.

Without a care, living in a northern paradise, fattening for the coming winter, the moose grazed his way through breakfast. He was almost finished, ready to move back into the forest when a 200 grain, soft lead bullet travelling at the speed of a jet airplane smashed into his shoulder, expanding and breaking the joint, then passing on into vital organs. The noise of the shot followed the impact of the slug and the moose crumpled where he stood, unable to move and awaiting death that arrived minutes ahead of the hunter who watched the whole thing through a 10X scope from a couple of hundred yards away.

Oh lord, I love junk mail.

If you were a member of the North American Hunting Club that little vignette would have had you creaming your Reeltree® Stix-n-Leaves camo jeans and wanting to read on about the mighty adventures you could look forward to — assuming I ever got around to writing them — whipping out your razor-sharp Kodi-Pak Big Game Knife Set, field dressing your moose and butchering him into round steaks, loins, roasts and assorted moose by-products. Not to mention, of course, getting his magnificent head stuffed and hung on your trophy wall at home where his lifeless, glass gaze would forever remind you of your own moment of barbaric glory.

I am a member of the North American Hunting Club; member 15060055-3 to be exact. At least I am until the bill comes and I write across it "CANCEL" and they stop sending me their North American Hunter magazine.

I don't have a clue where they got my name, what desperate, cash-hungry company sold my name to them. But somehow they got it and sent me a FREE OFFER that included a membership, a subscription to their magazine, a cute little zipper pull that proudly announced to the world I was a member of the NAHC — which I promptly lost, naturally — and a promise to send me untold riches in the form of neat huntin' and campin' stuff to test and keep. Oh glory.

I have a not-too-rigid policy of sending back everything that offers something for FREE. After all, I have this faux journalistic curiosity to satisfy. And it's FREE. I draw the line at things like newborn care kits, but I'm not above sending away for geriatric prize packages. Might as well see what the future holds in store.

I also draw the line at credit cards and lines of credit. Even after the Global Economic Meltdown, too many of them still come and I only have slots for three cards in my anemic wallet anyway, all of which are currently occupied by very important things.

Years ago, American Express was silly enough to actually send me an unsolicited credit card. The card arrived in the mail, not just an offer to impress my friends and neighbours by applying for an Amex card and thereby raise my inestimable envy quotient. I was stunned and not a little pissed off. I took it to work with me and ended up giving it to a street person. "Here, I think you dropped this," I told him.

"This any good?," he asked quizzically through mouldy teeth.

"Beats me. Why don't you find out?" I nudge-nudged, wink-winked him.

My conscience bothered me enough to call Amex and tell them I lost the card they were stupid enough to send me and to never, ever send me another unsolicited credit card. To be honest, it didn't bother me until about five days later, after I noticed the street bum and his buddies were all wearing new Nikes, had gotten haircuts and seemed to be eating better.

So now I've had a chance to read my first North American Hunter magazine. I still don't have any interest in hunting and I'm not any closer to understanding how people can link the thoughts: magnificent animal, let's kill it. But I'm not anti-hunter. Different strokes. I imagine hunters have just as much trouble understanding people who wear spandex shorts with padded butts, synthetic jerseys that look like fey billboards and ride $6,000 bikes up a highway full of texting, distracted drivers. And I'm certain non-skiers can't comprehend spending a couple of grand to slide repeatedly down cold hills wearing bizarre clothing and standing on overpriced sticks.

Maybe I'll get another issue of the magazine before they bill me and I cancel, maybe not. But damn if there isn't a come-on in the one I've already received, on page 90, where I can win FREE PRIZES. I've always thought a Scent-Lok suit — it holds in human smell and comes in camo — might be appreciated, especially during the smelly days of spring skiing.

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