Each year the state of Maine issues a select number of moose permits for hunters who have bid into a lottery. There are many hunters who have bid-in every year for maybe ten, twenty, or thirty years, but never win a permit. But, as you might expect, there are younger hunters who win a permit, or the right to a “tag,” in just their second or third year. Such is the case with a friend of friend, who shot a moose in a more northern WMD (wildlife management district) here in Maine. According to maine.gov, in 2014 the state’s moose population was between 60-70,000, and in 2015, hunters “hunters shot and tagged just 1,972 moose out of the 2,740 permits issued overall.”
So here’s the thing: I don’t hunt. And I don’t know much about guns. I grew up in a gunless house with a father who loathed the idea of shooting an animal, either for food or in simple homeowner angst (such as raccoons traumatizing housecats, or the like).
That said, my brother now owns guns and keeps them in a gun safe in his home, my significant other rather enjoys target practice, and indeed he traveled north with the friend (mentioned above), and was there when Boris Moose took his fall.
I drove down to Friendship, where Boris, my boyfriend, and his friend all ended up like some warped, northwoods circle of life. The moose had been hung by its legs, the night before, and had slits in his back legs. I reached out to touch Boris, on his foot. It felt like a horse’s hoof. Hard like a steel-toed boot or an almost-petrified rock. His hair was coarse, the friend said, there on his backside, but up closer to his head and his rack (somewhere near a 52” spread), the hair was soft.
I had never been so close to a killed animal before. Moreover, it was one that was intentionally killed, one I would, undoubtedly, later taste. A bit chilling, you know? Yet as uncomfortable as it was, I believed it was—yes, it was right. Because part of life is staying accountable to the earth, to being thankful for what it provides, and in turn, living our day-to-days in a way that honors each other, and therefore honors God.
We drove back to my boyfriend’s house, where Lily was. She ran to the door and waggled her butt so hard I thought she’d never stop. That infuriating, wonderful slap of a dog’s tail—ah, it came, and happiness poured out of her like a stream.
Where ya been, where ya been, where ya been? she said.
“Oh, I missed you! Missed you girl,” I said.
The three of us went into the living room, where, within five minutes, Lily jumped and dipped, playfully asking the most obvious of questions: when are we walking, Maggie!? Let’s go!
You can’t say no to a dog when you see that smile you can’t deny, yes, is a smile.
“You’ve trained her,” my boyfriend said.
“I have, haven’t I?” I laughed. “Well. It’s a good thing.”
The wind blew and the air was cooler, we wore coats with the zippers and buttons all the way up. Lily walked with a vengeance, forward forward forward, sniffing much less and trotting along the road much faster than usual. At the curve at the end of the harbor loop, we went to the edge of the shore, in front of a summer home. We saw no one, no lights from the house, nor from the nearby houses. The sunset had reached below the horizon; the edge of the ocean lay some fifty, one hundred miles distant. The sky—it looked pale, like the inside curve of an iris, where its petals curve outward and its center fades into soft, gentle white.
Water lapped on the shore and Lily tied herself tightly around our legs. My boyfriend let go of her rope but Lily stayed right next to us.
“She won’t go far,” he said.
“She’s doesn’t even want to leave,” I said.
Just as Lily felt tied, accountable, bound to the two of us, so does the people of this town I keep coming to—Lily’s town—seem bound to each other. I’ve never witnessed anything quite like it: the townspeople (or perhaps, in my limited perspective, I should restrict “townspeople” to the “town’s church members”), they look out for each other. (And they all, as my boyfriend said, would want to see the moose).
Word travels fast in small towns. But in small towns, there’s this knowledge that you’re close to each other. You have a certain amount of accountability, because your actions aren’t going to stay hidden for long. If people hear about a moose, they’re gonna want to see it. And then, I’d probably be asking myself: so, how much do I give away?
Now. May I compare a town to a church body?
Shouldn’t I be willing to serve and give to the church I attend in a way that doesn’t just bless me, but blesses others? Even if it’s just food, isn’t that a start?
This church in Friendship, these guys who went hunting together—they all know each other, pretty well. They’ve been attending church together for years, and so, without ever saying so to each other or needing to verify it, they know each of the others would have their back. Why? Because of all their interactions within the church, in town, and in the circles of their families and their friends, they know the other guys will just be there. They always have been. They always will be. Unspoken commitment. Accountability. Without ever saying so to each other or needing to verify it, they know that each of the others would have their back.
I’d like to be in a community with such accountability. I’d like to be in a church with such trust. I’m not there yet. But it’s a goal.