Just Like Clockwork

Three of my work-mates at the factory have taken their annual leave for deer hunting. I start to hear about their strategies in mid-summer. They have their licences, their individual arrangements with farmers or conservation areas for the requisite turf, their new techniques for silence and stalking.

One will employ ground level stealth, new gun and camouflage. Another a tree perch and special composite bow and arrows. I can almost identify with their eagerness. The autumn colour. The early mornings. The fresh air. The meals that taste better. The night's sleep that goes better. The wayside critters and birds who check them out. The evidence of migration and seasonal change all around. The frost on the pumpkin...But NOT the Bambi slaying. The last look of those liquid eyes through the gun scope. The hauling of the straight-legged wreck to the roadside, after perhaps the gutting and portioning of it deep in the bush or meadow.

I have never so much as shot a real gun, so perhaps I miss the sense of the male purpose in track, wait and kill. I have done all of the above-mentioned with camera in hand.The trophies are permanent. They celebrate life. For my Dad it was wood-carving or fishing.

If all goes according to plan, this month will see another ritual. At sunrise an immense flock of blackbirds will pass from east to west over our plant property, headed for farm lands west of Kitchener. They may stop briefly in the stand of trees along our eastern property line, chattering in their high-pitched discourse, and then explode to the air in unison. The flow of black on rapid wing will measure about 150 feet in width and will take about two minutes to pass over. It will swarm and undulate as one. A lot of birds! The process will be repeated for several mornings. From year to year their path of traverse will vary no more than one city block to north or to south of our steelyard.

Is this pre-migration exercise? A meal line to ripe harvests to the west? A group response in agitation to the cooler and cooler nights?

Critters of habit and design. All of us.


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