Guest Columnist

Farewell to Sherwood forest, and car-chasing

Kurt Ullrich lives in rural Jackson County.
Kurt Ullrich lives in rural Jackson County.

It’s October and the air is finally cooling, breezes quartering down the continent from an ancient glacier somewhere. Canada geese have begun their journey south, and the annual slaughter of deer has begun. Those who enjoy shooting live animals call it a harvest, not a slaughter and, as always, mine is a minority report. I allow a neighbor up the road and one of his family members to hunt deer with bow and arrow on my property in exchange for help from them during the year. It’s a 12th century barter system that works well. Not a moneylender in sight.

For me the term ‘bow and arrow’ conjures up images of the literature of my youth. I so desperately wanted to be one of Robin Hood’s men, but because I wore glasses, had braces on my teeth, and sported acne I couldn’t be a hero in my own life, but with a book I could softly travel the loamy ground of Sherwood Forest, bow in hand, quiver of arrows on my back, knowing that I worked for all that was good.

These days hunting bows are pulley-driven killing machines made with aluminum, carbon fiber, and lord knows what else. They are nothing like the original longbow of Robin Hood’s day. In the 1960s someone realized that if he turned a crossbow sideways it would be more accurate and deadly and, voila, a new form of bow was introduced, the one we see today.

Major League Baseball playoffs have begun and millionaires have taken to the field, playing a game we all played at some point. More than half century ago I was an OK player but could never lay off a curveball, so I went to work instead, a lifetime of jobs that monetarily didn’t add up to what these guys make in a year. I won’t be watching.

My farmer neighbors are a couple of weeks behind schedule because of an incredibly wet spring and these days they inhabit a world of economic uncertainty created single-handedly by he-who-must-not-be-named. Rain has been a problem lately as well, giving me a chance to break bread with good people who normally would be in the fields.

As an old, retired person I recently took in a weekday afternoon movie in a nearby town. Among the seemingly dozens of very loud previews was one for a movie called Harriet, a movie about former slave and abolitionist Harriet Tubman. A man sitting behind me said quite loudly, “Never heard of her.” His tone indicated to that he would not pay money for such a movie, let alone Google Tubman when he got home. The following day I was exiting a Walmart and coming in to the store was a guy wearing a Civil War style Confederate hat. There is nothing in my makeup that helps me sort this stuff out, so I don’t.

Out on a two-lane back road a couple of miles from me lives a beautiful border collie. She is well trained and in years past when I drove past her yard she chased my car, without ever running on to the pavement. She was actively involved in the life around her, chasing, chasing, always chasing. These days she is content to lie beneath the bed of a pickup truck and just watch the traffic, no longer chasing cars. We have that in common.

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Kurt Ullrich lives in rural Jackson County. His book “The Iowa State Fair” is available from the University of Iowa Press.

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