I often get question on my methods and intentions as to how I tend to take an ‘in-your-face’ approach to addressing absurdities and things that I view as bad behavior. When describing such things, I am quick to point out that I do such things ‘when appropropriate’. What this means is not only do I judge whether a situation is worth (deserves) speaking out about, but whether it can be done in a manner that will not bring harm unto myself. (see my blog post on the Golden Rule) When pressed for an example of what I’m talking about, there is one particular story that always pops into my head.
When I was still living with my folks and going to college, I did a greater deal of my hunting at a small plot of old Dodge family donated land in NE Oakland county called simply “Dodge Park #10” up off of Oakwood Road north of Oxford, MI. As it was not an official ‘park’ (with any facilities or a day use area) the bulk of the people using it were hunters in the fall. However, in that it was rather remote down the dirt portion of Oakwood road surrounded by undeveloped land on the north and a large aggregate gravel pit on the south, it was often a hangout for local high school kids outside of the hunting season.
One particular year, the state Department of Natural Resources was having trouble with kids ‘baha-ing’ off of the state access service road behind the main parking area. Initially they had up a rather basic locked swing gate. The kids broke off the lock. Then they bolted the gate shut. The kids unbolted it. Finally they brought in a whole dump-truck full of dirt and broken up concrete, put it across the entire service road making it inaccessible even to themselves and again put up the bolted gate.
One particular fall during bow season, I show up at the main parking lot to find 3 cars of hunters – all standing around gawking, and a jeep full of high school kids in various states of industry. By the time I showed up, the kids had already unbolted the gate again and they were in the process (about 8 of them) of removing the concrete blocks one by one. I surveyed the scene and most of the hunters were looking at one another and shrugging. Reluctant to leave thinking they should do something, but the looks on their faces amounting to “what can we do?”
I wasted no time and quickly went about donning my hunting gear and feigning to be oblivious to what was going on as I listened to the conversations on both sides. The kids were content in ignoring the other hunters and myself, realizing they felt they could do nothing about it and taking advantage of that fact. The hunters kept making comments to one another quiet enough not to be heard by the kids along the lines of ‘what gall’ and again, ‘well, what can you do?’ (mind you, this was before wide scale use of personal cell phones)
I eventually finished getting my gear on, threw my bow over my shoulder and took one last look at the hunters with an attempt to put a very obvious ‘disappointed’ look on my face communicating ‘how pathetic you are!’ I locked up the back of the truck, went to the front and reached into the console where I always kept a pad of paper and a pen for just such events. (I should also point out that when I came into the parking lot, I backed into my space so my truck would be facing forward)
I then took the pen and pad and walked so as to be as obvious as possible up behind the jeep and scribbled something down. A couple of the kids looked up at me as I did this and I just gave them a wave and a sarcastic smile, walked back over to my truck, put the pen back in the visor and threw the still-open pad of paper onto the dashboard where it would be well within view of anyone that wandered over to look. I then re-situated my bow on my shoulder, tipped my camo wool stetson at the hunters with a look of ‘was that hard?’ then gave another sarcastic smile to one of the kids still watching me, tipping my hat again and proceeded to walk into the woods.
Knowing that there was going to be quite a spectacle going on behind me and guessing that no one would make a move until I was well out of sight, I headed for a thick spot in the brush, walked into it and proceeded to do a ‘j-hook’ so I could watch what resulted. Since I was in full camo and tend to be quite stealthy in the woods, I was quite certain no one saw me pull off this maneuver and since it was a thick stand of alders, I was also confident no one saw me looking on.
First one of the hunters came over and looked at the slip and threw his hands up turning to his buddies and laughing. “why didn’t I think of that?” he said – or something of the sort. Most of the kids had gone back to working on removing the blocks except for the main two who watched me writing. The one that continued to watch me then walked over to take a look at the slip himself.It was obvious he had a good idea what was on the slip already, but he then quickly went over to grab one of the larger boys (probably either the one who was driving or the one who had the bright idea to go out baha’ing that particular afternoon). They both walked over and looked at the slip again as the hunters started to laugh and grab there own things finally assuming the most likely result.
The two boys talked to one another briefly, took a look around to see if they could spot where I went but I was well out of sight, paused briefly, looked back at my truck, looked at the other hunters watching them intently then finally shrugged and told their friends to pack it in. They all loaded into the jeep and left and I never saw the jeep or the kids there again – and the bricks remained until I stopped hunting there years later.
What did I right down? Well in case you hadn’t figured it out all ready, just a couple of letters and numbers. I simply wrote down their license plate and a short description of the jeep.
The point being, that as long as the kids felt no one could – and no one would – do anything to stop them, they felt emboldened to do whatever they pleased. As long as it was obvious that the hunters were just going to stand there and do nothing, there was no problem with doing something that was obviously wrong. It wasn’t until someone ‘stood up’ and did ‘something’ that said – “no, not gonna happen – not on my watch – not without appropriate consequences” that they decided to give up their venture.
I didn’t make a huge scene. I didn’t get in any arguments. I didn’t tell them what to do or what not to do. I simply made it clear that they were being watched, and that I had taken note of who they were and what they were doing with one simple gesture.
As an aside, I had already used this practice – most specifically against other hunters who were behaving badly. (it’s a subject for another blog, but I am far harder on other hunters behaving badly then I would ever be to ‘day users’ because, in a manner of speaking, those hunters represent me) In those cases, such as when hunters are shooting at anything that moves or at road signs, dumping trash, drinking beer, etc. I wait for said hunters to be well back in the woods and simply write down their license plate number and stick it – by itself – under their own windshield wiper. There’s nothing funnier but to watch than one of them coming back to the car and going through the chain of thought necessary to realize that if someone had the where-with-all to write it down once, that they could write it down twice – then to think back through their own mind to what they might have done to inspire it. It requires them to come to their own conclusions as to what they may have been doing to ‘inspire’ such a gesture, then make their own choice how to proceed.
Apathy sux! Pass it along…