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Society at an Impasse – What’s with the All or Nothing Breakdown?

The president of the United States took the word of the Russian president over U.S. intelligence and law enforcement is saying he believed Putin’s denial of Russian military interference in the U.S. election process, despite indictments against Russians for hacking the Democratic National Committee and waging a propaganda war in American social media. It was an odd choice of nothing over all the evidence.

OK, where does that leave America? According to Trump’s apologists, he had no choice but to defer to Putin. After all, it would have been rude to call him a liar. A Fox News personality scoffed that Trump couldn’t very well shoot Putin. These are very strange propositions in what is an all-or-nothing proposition: Trump could either go on the offensive or agree. Huh?

The president could have simply said, with all due respect, I believe my intelligence agencies’ evidence. Did he fear if he did that somehow he’d end up as Russia’s latest poison victim? Of course, there is endless speculation on compromising information, such as theories about Trump or the Trump Organization having massive debts to Russians and/or some kind of scandalous video. If, hypothetically, there was such a problem with compromising information, the right thing to do would be to step aside to protect national security. Is that all or nothing? Not really, Vice President Pence was duly elected and could step up as president. Besides, if there is nothing to such rumors, the president can still side with the CIA, FBI, etc. and agree Russian interference took place.

Am I a huge supporter of Pence? Not particularly. But, I do not side with Democrats either. Case in point, a small group of Democratic House members I have never heard of have introduced legislation to abolish ICE. Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, rightly jumped on this absurd suggestion. You do not get rid of the immigration agency because you do not like the way it is implementing immigration policy. Instead, try introducing immigration reform to direct ICE to implement the policies you prefer.

False choices

This is another all-or-nothing proposition: ICE shouldn’t separate babies from parents seeking asylum so let’s get rid of ICE.

When did we, as Americans, become so entrenched in these false choices? If you are politically independent or lean in one direction (but are not wholly partisan), you are left in a wide chasm between these extremes.

It’s as if many cannot process distinctions and nuance. Take the ICE example. I think the zero-tolerance policy has created the consequence of imposing cruel and unusual punishment on small children that is not only detrimental to them, but diminishes the United States’ standing on human rights. The Obama administration faced the same quandary and instead deployed the Family Case Management Program, which a 2017 Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General Report found was effective. While a relatively small population of asylum-seekers were in the program, the preponderance complied with ICE check-ins and court appearances (99%), according to the report. The costs were significantly less than family detention centers too.

Now, was that program the best possible solution? Maybe not. Maybe we should explore other possibilities, including immigration reform legislation after a series of thorough hearings.

Speaking of thorough hearings, why not wait for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference to properly run its course? Why wouldn’t we want to know the extent of it? After the Trump-Putin meeting in Helsinki on Monday, also known as the #treasonsummit, some inside-the-beltway news accounts with anonymous sources suggested Trump does not make any distinction between Russian interference and the suggestion that his presidential campaign colluded with the Russians.

The latter might be possible, but the evidence thus far does not fully support that proposition. If anyone did, then they should be punished. At this point, I think that is possible and I also think it is possible Trump himself was not involved. I also believe it’s possible Trump might have been elected without the Russian election interference campaign. That doesn’t mean we should not try to stop it from happening again.

The Sage Leopard

Crossing Paths in the Arizona Desert: A Hunter’s View of the Mexican Border

We went to the desert in Arizona to learn something about ourselves while other people were running for their lives across the Mexico-U.S. border. Running from what exactly in their home lands I don’t know, but I suspect it’s something extremely difficult I’ve never experienced.Valley near U.S.-Mexico border in Coronado National Memorial

Nowadays, many border crossers may be presenting themselves for asylum, as discussed in recent news reports, but our impression at the time of our visit five years ago was that the people crossing the mountains and canyons where we spent a week camping were seeking to elude capture. We saw the expected Border Patrol SUVs and vans, but also helicopters and a U.S. Air Force plane, the latter of which buzzed me one late afternoon as I sat reading by a campfire I had just built. I don’t recall what book I was reading, but I guess the personnel on the aircraft were close enough to see the title given I saw their faces in the cockpit.USAF plane near U.S.-Mexico border

We took the trip to celebrate my man’s 50th birthday with a deer hunt. Specifically, coues whitetail deer, also known as gray ghosts. This species and terrain in the Huachuca Mountains were completely new to us and we went with an outfitter who had donated the hunt to a Houston conservation group’s annual fundraiser. B. won the hunt in an exciting live auction. We had no idea what we were getting into.Casino Rural, Arizona

On the way to our hunting camp deep in the Coronado National Memorial (named for the Coronado Expedition of 1540, a Spanish-led northward migration through the area), we dropped south of Tucson on a highway before getting on old roads. The further south we went, the more frequently we saw Border Patrol vehicles. We arrived a tiny outpost with a convenience store and a bar named Casino Rural. From there, we headed into the Coronado national park, which is a desert landscape with zillions of Saguaro and Ocotillo cacti.

Mountains in southern Arizona, on the Mexican borderThe colors of the rocks, plants and sky come into view in stunning combinations, especially when you are ensconced on a mountaintop before dawn and watch the gradations of sunrise light up the landscape. From one such perch, it was a ways down to the valleys below and there was another mountain mirroring us. Atop that, we could see the Mexican border delineated with a barbed wire fence, which appeared meant to keep cattle in at ranches on the Mexico side.

In recalling this last night, B. told his parents how the hunting guides told him they previously had seen a sniper on the Mexico side of that particular mountain. His role was to control who got to go across the border into the U.S. The guides also related how they once found a skull and some clothing of a young girl. The authorities came to the scene and her identification was found in the clothing.Border Patrol in Arizona near the Mexico border

We saw indications of these foot travelers, such as abandoned coats and sleeping rolls, water bottle stations, empty water bottles marked for women and empty food cans. We saw these in box canyons and trails coming right through the border. (We walked up to the border on one hunt.) By contrast, we arrived in the desert via a pickup truck loaded with water, food, weather-wise clothing, snake boots, sunblock, toiletries and sundry gear. You must hydrate continually, so we overpacked water. Even with all this stuff, we considered ourselves to be roughing it. As for the other visitors, whoever dropped their coats must have regretted it as the extreme desert heat of the day quickly turns to very cold nights.

Desert at nightOne night, in a huge tent with a wood-burning stove and chimney, I dreamt I heard men come into our camp. They were opening up the coolers and taking drinks. When we got up to go hunting, I told my guide about the dream and he said it was real life. He had been watching them from his camper. As long as they didn’t present danger, it was best to not confront them and let them go on their way.

We didn’t discuss politics or policy when sitting around the campfire, but agreed the status quo of illegal immigrants endangering their lives with coyotes (the smugglers, not the animals) and rugged, rough conditions is terrible.

As for “the wall,” it makes little sense to build a monolithic physical wall across the entire length of the border. There are environmental considerations, such as the movement of ocelots, deer and other creatures who should not be limited to one side or the other. Then there is the ginormous cost when other security measures can be used. Work eligibility should also be enforced. And, imagine if Congress ever managed to enact immigration reforms? (I thought George W. Bush was right when he was pushing for reforms after September 11.) Perhaps we need more seasonal work visas. We might even have a better idea of what is working, what won’t work and what is needed if Congress even deigned to hold some hearings on the subject.Dawn in the desert

I am not aiming to solve the immigration policy mess with this blog. I just wanted to begin to describe the incredibly brutal landscape some of these people are crossing to get in and, moreover, to recognize that they are people. People with struggles and people with ambitions. Reinforcing the border is a good idea, but a massive wall is overkill. We also need more immigration judges to decide whether to grant asylum and handle the other cases.

The Sage Leopard in ArizonaMost of all, right now, we need to recognize the dignity of people and not treat them inhumanely (if even they broke the law, separating young children from parents is cruel and unusual punishment imposed on little kids). Please remember, we have our dignity to maintain too.

The Sage Leopard

C’mon on Down! Trade Dealing in a New Reality

Our former TV reality show president says that countries are lining up to negotiate new bilateral trade agreements at a time when he is pursuing trade wars with tariffs and reportedly seeking to undermine the World Trade Organization.

“Let’s make a deal!,” is what Trump says he’s hearing from counterparts abroad. On its face, this claim from the president might make it seem he is doing something constructive.

Or is it destructive and counterproductive? Trump promised to be a disruptor and challenger of the status quo. To be good at that tactic, you must fully understand the status quo. This process is known as a reality check.

Trump has repeatedly said he wants to slap a tariff on European cars in the U.S., as if to even the playing field for U.S. automakers. What is odd about that suggestion is that many foreign companies already build vehicles at U.S. plants with American workers:

  • BMW in South Carolina
  • Volkswagon in Tennessee
  • Mercedes in Alabama
  • Hyundai in Alabama
  • Toyota trucks in Texas

Earlier this week, I read Trump said tariffs on European carmakers would encourage them to build vehicles here to avoid an import tax. Of course, I repeat, they already do build vehicles here. I can only guess he wants to take credit for something that has been going in for years as a result of state and local officials crafting economic development incentives to bring in such major employers.

What is the true cost? What is the price of these tariffs? Let’s start with the steel and aluminum import tariffs Trump imposed. Well, that increased costs for U.S. manufacturers, including Mid-continent Nail, which as a result cut 60 jobs in Missouri last month and warns it might go out of business by the end of August. And, of course, Trump got annoyed with Harley-Davidson for announcing that it would need to move some production overseas due to the tariffs. That too means some more U.S. workers will get laid off. In Texas, workers at a steel mill that makes pipe and tube products started a letter-writing campaign to Trump, asking him to lay off the tariffs.

Tariffs and retaliatory tariffs are not just problematic for American manufacturers and their American employees. Those increased costs are passed through in the pricing of products, so the pain becomes more widespread.

There’s another trouble on the horizon: the flattening of the yield curve, a key economic indicator that looks at rates on Treasury bonds. A higher curve indicates economic growth. While some think this is happening because of the strength of the 2-year Treasury yield, which is a positive sign, others worry this flatter curve could signal a possible recession.

Now, I’m not an economist, just a former small-time business news writer, but those extra costs are something to ponder when considering if Trump is doing anything to improve the economy. To me, the price is not right.

The Sage Leopard

An Uncivil War: How Do We Emerge from This?

A Republican congressman suggests we’re on the verge of another civil war. A Democratic congresswoman urges citizens to harass office holders with whom they disagree.

A presidential press secretary asked to leave a restaurant. A natural-born U.S. citizen berated for allegedly being a Mexican rapist while he was landscaping a yard. White people calling the police on black people who aren’t doing anything threatening. A president whose Twitter account is Exhibit A in a lack of decorum, to put it mildly.

Where are we going with all of this? A cautionary tale is Mexico, where I heard on the radio today that 130 political candidates and campaign workers have been murdered ahead of the upcoming election. That is not a typo. One hundred and thirty people. My fellow Americans, let’s not go there.

What if we could engage in a political discourse that, while earnest and impassioned, was intellectually honest and fair minded? Am I naïve? Perhaps. After all, we’ve all seen enough extreme memes to wish for a mind cleanse. And, I see anti-liberal memes and anti-conservative cartoons.

Where does that leave anyone who is neither archetype? I am pro-First Amendment and pro-Second Amendment (hell, I love the entire Bill of Rights), I am fiscally conservative and socially liberal. In the interest of full disclosure, I find it rather irritating to hear people who have strident political views without having read any real news or attempted to fact-check anything they are repeating. I can’t stand talking points. Oh, and I really loathe clichés, such as the term “thought leader.” I am Christian, but don’t want anyone else to tell me how to interpret the Bible, unless they went to divinity school and I asked them. Or, it is a friend or stranger just relating their understanding, as opposed to a government official citing Scripture to buttress a questionable policy.

I fully admit there are times when I feel fed up, shocked or saddened by news as it unfolds. Mind you, I love news. (I am a former journalist with a double-major degree in history and journalism).

I also confess to earlier today asking Trump supporters to explain their point of view with a Facebook post in which I had side-by-side photos of Trump and Jim Jones of Jonestown infamy. My high school field hockey coach then popped up to politely admonish me for baiting Trump supporters, noting I shouldn’t be surprised they didn’t respond. My coach is one of the toughest, most exacting and most inspiring people I have ever known. When she says something, I need to listen.

Are we truly listening to each other? Many liberals are so furious about serious policy concerns that they are done with being civil, and risk becoming what they despise. Many conservatives have spent a lot of time mocking liberals as effete, etc. This has been going on a very long time and I hope we are reaching the nadir. What have we accomplished with any of this?

Is it possible for us to return to speaking with each other and asking questions, such as what are your fears and aspirations? What do we absolute need as opposed to just want? If we are going to undertake major policy changes, can we have hearings to examine facts (not just hear endless opening statements, please) and weigh cost-benefit analyses (plural).

We have a major challenge before us, collectively, to strengthen the social fabric and to ensure the sanctity of the social compact. Please join me in attempting a civil discourse.

Self-Care in a Time of Chaos

My boyfriend told me last night that, for my own well-being, I need to stop getting worked up about the news. He cares about keeping up with current events as well, but given our different personalities and psychological make-ups, he is handling it better than I am.

In college, I knew I wanted to be a reporter and was relieved to find a job in business news because I didn’t have the nerves to cover crimes. It would have upset me too much. Instead, I covered conflicts that played out in press conferences, interviews and legal documents. This suited me because I enjoy reading, considering, discerning, questioning and debating.

Now, it seems each news day is a bad news day. For example, the health insurance law protections for people with pre-existing conditions may be going out the window. I am self-employed and have psoriasis, a genetic condition that can become painful without treatment. So, that upsets me.

Friday morning, the first news item I saw was Trump advocating for Russia to rejoin the G7(8), despite the annexation of Crimea, support for Assad, hey, meddling in the U.S. 2016 election, etc. That ticked me off, so I sought refuge in Facebook, hoping for a cute dog video. Wrong. The first thing I saw was that Anthony Bourdain had killed himself. That sapped the happy energy I had awakened with, so I plowed into work and felt good again, being distracted by productivity. But the sadness gnawed at me, tugging on my anxiety, almost imploring it to come to the surface.

When a psychologist diagnosed me with generalized anxiety disorder, I was annoyed the name of the condition is so vague. Give me some tangible specifics and I can grapple with those, even with enthusiasm and a drive for problem-solving. The amorphous sounding terminology concerned me. I asked her if this was like psoriasis, something hard-wired into me I would have to live with.

No, she said, you can essentially think your way out of this. You can gain control over feelings that would otherwise throw you into an anxious state. Great, let’s do this behavioral modification and talk therapy! If I had not met her, I have no idea what state I would be in now. With her guidance, I overcame a lot of obstacles, suffice it to say. Granted, I do take an anti-anxiety medication, which I find really helps.

Self-Care, the Good Habits

Truthfully, sometimes when the news is just shockingly awful, I turned to wine and music to relax. That’s fine, unless you drink too much wine. To avoid that, I like to make rose spritzers with Topo Chico. Last night was a Friday night, when I normally want to stay up watching a movie, but after the news, I was toast. My mother and I had had a difficult conversation and I was drained by the associated anxiety. I went to bed, wearing a sleep mask and cuddled by a big, goofy Catahoula. I needed that self-care.

When regrouping, I like to focus on gardening, reading, writing, cleaning, cooking and crafting. A nice bubble bath really helps too. Plus, Pinterest is a form of therapy because I am focusing on finding things that make me smile: beautiful fabrics, lovely gardens and delicious food to add to my repertoire. In other words, pack your life full of things you enjoy, every day, analogous to watering your flowers.

Always add to your experiences. I’ve been looking forward to going out on my man’s boat, but it’s not quite ready. Instead, he surprised me by suggesting we go to a kite festival today!

Top Five Pros and Cons of Working in a Home Office

After a couple of years of working from home with my digital marketing business, I have come to appreciate and loathe certain aspects of the residential office environment. That being said, I do not miss the downtown commute, which was taking nearly three hours out of my day.

Pros:

  • You can read your morning emails and news in your PJs with crazy bedhead hair that looks like Nick Nolte’s headshot, then go about your regular getting ready for work routine and no one on the other end of your digital correspondence is the wiser.
  • You can sit on an exercise ball at your desk and keep a yoga mat nearby for stretches, and do yoga stretches in your workspace without offending anyone with downward-facing-dog booty in the air.
  • You save time by not commuting and abbreviating your lunch breaks.
  • Throw in some laundry while you work (just don’t allow yourself to be drawn into full-blown housework as a form of procrastinating from your work).
  • You can set up your office exactly the way you want it, listen to news or inspirational instrumental music on your computer without headphones and use a scented wax warmer without anyone complaining.

Cons

  • Your dogs bark for extended periods of time at lawn crews in your neighborhood. (When your crew arrives, wear ear protection or go to Starbucks.)
  • The lawyer doing your incorporation jokes about a business being run out of a garage, so you remind him you have a home office.
  • Cabin fever creeps in if you don’t go out on client calls.
  • A shocking number of solicitors show up at your front door. Even if you don’t answer, this is an annoying and somewhat scary distraction. Still, your loud dogs (see above) provide a deterrent to criminals (ideally).
  • Your talking to yourself habit is getting worse.

While working from home is full of distractions, you can make the best of it. When the dogs started barking as if ax murderers were on the threshold, I knew it was just lawn mowers next door and realized this was going to suck 20 minutes out of my day. I could not continue editing a blog about federal tax policymaking with all that noise and bluster, so I took a break to write this instead. That is the essence of The Sage Leopard’s attitude: craft your own happiness!

Machine Gun on the Bayou

I’m in full support of gun rights and gun safety, and that’s why I have been aghast to hear the rapid-fire reports of a machine gun in our suburban Houston neighborhood in recent days and nights.

To clarify, we live in unincorporated Harris County, which can sometimes seem like the Wild West on suburbia given its lack of zoning and a fair amount of crime. But, we are policed here in our area by the Harris County Sheriff’s Department. The deputies have been getting a lot of calls about full-automatic gunfire, which seems to be coming from one of the bayous in the neighborhood.

The shots are being heard across a wide radius, judging by the comments on the NextDoor app. Now, some folks commented they think it’s just fireworks, but they have been corrected by military vets and others familiar with the actual sound of gunfire. Or, by anyone who has watched news coverage of a war zone or a war movie.

This is not semi-automatic gunfire like that of an AR-15. My man, who lived in Beirut at the outset of its civil war, came in from the patio the other night to tell me he heard a machine gun. I said, “you mean full auto?” and he said, “yeah, full auto.” I stepped outside and lo and behold, it was an unmistakable sound.

I’ve been at the gun range with my bolt-action rifle target shooting amid people with semi-automatic rifles and I know what the latter sounds like. This sound carrying across the neighborhood is not semi-automatic.

This egregious behavior went from an initial shock to furious comments on social media. We first heard it at night, but Sunday afternoon, we heard it again. Byron and I drove toward the area we suspect it is coming from, a waste site on a particular bayou (there are several here that feed into the neighboring Addicks Reservoir). We pulled up to a realtor standing outside an open house he was hosting and he agreed it’s a machine gun, noting he had been in the military. Just as I started to dial the sheriff’s department, we saw a deputy’s patrol car pulling up to a man standing beside his truck. He had just called the sheriff’s department to report the problem.

The NextDoor discussion is getting more urgent with people adamantly expressing that we need to keep calling to help the police triangulate the source of the sound. One of the most involved commenters has related the Sheriff’s Department is deploying a helicopter and K-9s, and come to think of it, we did hear a helicopter flying low the other night.

I firmly believe Americans have a Second Amendment right to bear arms, whether for self-protection or hunting. But, full automatic rifle, a.k.a. machine gun, is severely restricted and regulated, for good reason. And, whoever is doing this is incredibly reckless. It would be reckless to shoot any firearm wantonly in a residential area. During dove season, we often hear shotguns on a large, nearby property and those shooters are not endangering anyone.

The machine gun on the bayou is hopefully a fleeting phenomenon that will be shut down by law enforcement.

Katharine Fraser, The Sage Leopard

Vinegar Chicken: Seeking Crispy Greatness

My Dad spent formative years on his grandparents’ farm in New Jersey and one of his chores was to feed the chickens. He also was called upon to help prepare them for dinner and, as a result, grew disinterested in eating them.

After all, familiarity breeds contempt or at least, boredom. When my parents married, my mom was stumped: how was she going to cook without chicken in the menu mix?

Sauteed chicken with vinegar.

Dad changed his mind about chicken in the ’80s, when he became a devotee of Marcella Hazan’s Italian cookbooks and discovered there are ways to bring variety to chicken dishes. The preparation is key too.

I’m more of an ad-libber when it comes to cooking. Yes, I follow recipes, but I also go my own way. For chicken breasts, I usually buy the big pack of breast with rib meat and trim it with shears. Usually, I place the trimmed meat in a gallon Ziplock with flour and spices, seal it and shake it all around.Chicken after flour dredge

For vinegar chicken, I placed the meat in a large bowl and nearly covered it with white vinegar (buy the big jug of supermarket brand white vinegar). I added water and about an 1/8th of a cup each of Kosher salt and white sugar. Put it in the fridge for about a half hour.

After the brine, place the chicken on a cushion of paper towels and pat dry. Then, coat them with the flour and spices in the plastic bag.

In a large skillet or pan, heat the oil. Use two kinds; I used vegetable oil and olive oil. Once hot (medium to medium-high or 6 on my dial on a gas range), place the chicken pieces in the skillet and cover. Walk away for at least 10 minutes. It is not helpful to fuss over meat while it is cooking. Turn once browned and lower the heat to medium.

Add fresh ground pepper. Walk away again. You want the meat to really cook through.

The chicken should have a nice crispy finish. This was served with sauteed cauliflower and a salad.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken breasts
  • White vinegar, water
  • Kosher salt
  • White sugar
  • Vegetable oil
  • Olive oil (basic, not the fancy unfiltered olive oil for salads)

Gun Control and Market Forces: A View from the Field

The Parkland, Florida, shooting may mark a pivot point in the national discussion about guns. While the NRA is standing firm against gun control, there is something beyond the reach of legislators and lobbyists: market forces.

We’ve seen several companies, notably Dick’s Sporting Goods and Walmart among them, announce they would raise the minimum buying age at their stores to 21. Dick’s also said it would no longer sell semi-automatic rifles. The company disclosed that the Parkland shooter did buy a gun from Dick’s, but that weapon was not used in the mass shooting. Still, Dick’s was moved to act because it had come close to being a part of that story and it never wants to be part of such a story.

The reactions to Parkland have been swift, including a curious one by President Trump, who said he wanted to take guns away from people who may present a threat and get to due process later. That definitely threw my head back. After years of hearing that Democrats want to take away people’s guns, it was incredibly ironic to hear a Republican president suggest it. But, subsequently, Trump said he had a “great meeting” with the NRA and the NRA said the president remained committed to due process. What a relief the president wants to maintain the rule of law.

Anyhow, a lot looks to be changing under current law. If some retailers pull away from gun sales, others will remain in the market to meet demand, to be sure. Academy Sports + Outdoors, which supports legislation to broaden background checks, is not changing its gun sales business model.

But gun sales are down across the board, leading to the bankruptcy of Remington. Also, when Camping World acquired Gander Mtn., the Camping World CEO blamed Gander’s retail demise in part on a bad bet on gun sales.

Will actions by Dick’s and Walmart reduce the risk of mass shootings? Probably not. But it does protect their reputation if such a shooter did not acquire a weapon from them, or at least that’s the thinking.

In the interest of full disclosure, I have shopped for guns at many big box sporting goods stores and purchased from Gander and Academy. Their sales staff are knowledgeable, helpful and, of course, compliant with the law. I’ll never forget the time I returned to Gander to discuss a rifle I had looked at before. A gentleman was waiting on me and asking me questions about my skill level and my intended uses. I told him I needed to be sited in for my next deer hunt at 300 yards, so I would need some time – about six weeks – to practice at the range before the trip. We had a detailed discussion about the different kinds of hunts and locations where I am likely to be. Then, a rude man rushed up and interrupted us.

The jerk addressed the salesman as if I was invisible. The salesman noted he was with a customer and the man should take a number. He kept talking. He kept coming back and insisting he wanted to buy a handgun. I don’t know if my salesman signaled the others, but no one would wait on this guy. He left in a huff. The salesman shook his head and said, “I will never sell a gun to anyone in a rush.”

This does not resolve all the questions surrounding how to prevent mass shootings. Some staunch supporters of the Second Amendment do not want any new restrictions. I would argue that defeatist inaction is not an option. The definition of insanity is keeping the status quo and expecting different results.

Do I want restrictions that would keep me from obtaining guns? No. I hunt and like the option of self-defense. As noted in a previous blog, while stranded in a flooded neighborhood after Hurricane Harvey, we had armed men come to our house in the middle of the night. There was no incident, thank goodness, but in such a situation, you should be able to defend yourself in your own home.

As for the AR-15 – notorious to some, appreciated by others – I haven’t shot one yet. I did occur to me on a hog hunt last year that it would have been an appropriate tool for responding to a horde of hogs in the woods and tall grass. That said, if I could not obtain one, I’d get over that idea.

But would I mind if I had to wait a few days or longer to obtain another weapon? No. Do I think my Second Amendment rights would be abridged? No.

Even a Republican congressman from Florida has now called for enhanced background checks and other measures to keep guns away from dangerous people. That kind of approach and the market forces may curb some of the danger.

Have I ever been afraid of another gun owner? Yes. Besides the men on our porch after the hurricane, one time I was at a range and a couple next to me came in with an AR-15, which frankly is a little loud for an indoor range. The real problem was neither the man or the woman seem to have any experience handling a rifle of any kind. They were not holding it properly and the kickback against their chests must have been awful. I was really worried one of them would accidentally shoot us, so I gave my boyfriend hand signals that we must leave immediately. These were not responsible gun owners.

The other thing that concerns me is the danger of an active shooter with such a gun. A lot of these shooters have had red flags all around them. We need to study what they have in common and how that could help identify dangers before they are realized. What’s potentially helpful about the Parkland shooting is the suspect is alive. Maybe he has something to tell the rest of us about how to keep this from happening again and again.

P.S.:

What you may have noticed here is there are no pictures of guns associated with this blog. Why? Because I generally find it inappropriate. Granted, I once posted a picture to Facebook of myself in the field with a buck I harvested and the rifle was in the picture. I got some negative feedback, but from people who eat meat, so I shrugged that off. I also once posted a picture of me and The Sage Leopard (pictured above on a regular walk) while in the field during a dove hunt. My shotgun was in the picture. To clarify, I am not suggesting people hide how guns are part of their normal life. But I do have concerns about anyone posing in selfies with guns just to look tough or intimidating.

 

Why is Hog Hunting Hard? The Reality in Thick Woods

When I first heard of people hunting hogs by helicopter, I grimaced. It seems rather unseemly, right? After all, it’s not very sporting.

The problem with hogs are they are not simply game, like deer or duck. Wild hogs are an invasive species that damage the environment and well, hog the resources that actual game eat. Living in Texas, we have seen first-hand the extensive damage hogs beat into the landscape, along roads, in fields and on other land.

Sadly, we are now seeing their handiwork on land owned by my boyfriend’s Dad in North Georgia. These are deep, mountainous woods. Hardwoods stretching high to the sky, gripping steep glens and protecting creeks. The trees are full of squirrels and birds and shed carpets of acorns, which we tend to think are intended for deer, not the ravenous hogs.

At Thanksgiving, we returned to these woods to deer hunt. Our first outing, we quietly entered a clearing with a high perch and heard movement. We stood still and surprisingly, two hogs walked toward us, oblivious. Byron raised his rifle. As he was between me and the hogs, I kept my muzzle skyward.View from deep woods while hog hunting.

The two hogs were in a tall grass and amazingly did not see us, even at about 15 yards. At that point, Byron had a shot and dispatched one. The other took off down the mountain. We went to the large sow on the ground.

What can one sow mean to an area? A friend with a family ranch in Texas has noted that the gestation period is three months, three weeks and three days. That’s one way of thinking about it, though I have read a wild sow typically has one to two litters a year. Now, in a given area, there will be more than one sow and the population can really take off.

The first time I saw a herd in action was at Peach Point, a wildlife preserve near Freeport, Texas. The wildlife managers were hosting a public hog hunt and due to high demand, held a lottery for the hunters. Once selected, we were assigned blinds. Each parcel was small enough that they did not want people walking around with rifles shooting into the wild.

We sat in our blind within an electric transmission right of way and watched hogs from a distance of more than 300 yards. In short, we didn’t have a shot. We did get in some wonderful bird watching, in particular. a male Cardinal and two females who seemed to be vying for his attention.

Then, on the way back from lunch while driving in the truck, we saw a huge herd running across an expanse of Gulf Prairie. There were scores of them, including many piglets running alongside big mama sows and scary looking boars. My jaw was swinging in the wind. Without a legal shot under the management practices at hand for that hunt, we were left to gaze in wonderment and horror.

Flash forward back to North Georgia. Our deer hunt was now a hog hunt, for all intents and purposes. The next afternoon, I sat in a dell between a mountainside and a creek, waiting. This was directly below the clearing at the mountaintop where we saw the first two.

The woods are full of beauty.

Suddenly, I heard something that sounded like a swift, heavy rain. The sky was gray, not wet. There was no wind, although it sounded like wind. It was the sound of multitudes of hog hooves schussing through the dry leaves covering the ground.

The train of hogs was coming my way. I had been sitting in wait for a deer. Now, I stood and drew my rifle upon a shooting stick. I aimed for a space the hogs would pass en route to the creek. There was some grass between me and the space. Suddenly, my line of vision through the scope was engulfed with hogs. They rushed past in a grouping.

Rather than blast away, I vainly attempted to focus on one hog to get a clean shot. But it was gone and then another. And another.

I tried to retrain my rifle, to no avail. In short, I whiffed. I resolved I had the wrong gun for the job. Granted, blaming your equipment is the lamest excuse in the book. If I had the chance to do it again, I might not go for that perfect shot.

But, why do hunters go for the optimal shot? For starters, it is humane to cleanly take the animal. Also, if you are planning to eat the meat, you want a clean shot. Of equal importance, is safety. You don’t want to get into the habit of wantonly shooting. You want to aim and take out that particular hog, deer, bird, whichever.

I was simply overwhelmed. I had stayed true to the moral that you must be 100% certain you have a clean kill shot before pulling the trigger. I had that with my first buck. I most certainly did not have that as a dozen large, medium and small hogs raced through tall grass.

Could I have succeeded in hitting one or two? Yes, but they would not have likely dropped liked stones. The ethic being do not kill if the animal would extensively linger or run off with an injury. Have I taken another buck and a doe on other occasions where they ran? Yes, but they only moved briefly and then dropped. One buck took a lung shot and an apparent adrenaline rush. A doe bolted about 20 feet and went down.A perfect habitat.

When it came to these hogs, I was stunned by their speed. It also reminded me of duck hunting when you wait and wait and suddenly a couple dozen scream overhead. I had trouble focusing on one to take in the moment as milliseconds elapse and then the moment was gone.

I admit I was jealous of Byron’s hog in the clearing. When they came upon us, they were lumbering. One was so big, for a moment, we thought it was a bear. Once they got close, they were obviously hog. I had hoped to stalk the one that ran, but he disappeared into the thick woods. That next day, I missed my chance.

So what to do? We are planning to return in April. If I see another train of hogs, I will plan to shoot one at a time.