Monday, July 18, 2011

Nature Wastes Nothing

About a month ago I spotted a road-killed forkhorn buck on the side of the road that I travel every day to get to work. Like most people I looked down at the side of the road and sighed. My heart hurt for the senseless death of something so beautiful.  I decided in a moment that today would be different. I was not going to let that creature degrade into another rotting carcass to be dragged off into the ditch and possibly attract other critters to the dangerous roadside, where they too might meet an untimely death trying to do what used to come naturally to all of us; scavenge.

We have become a society where our meat is delivered in Styrofoam containers with polyethylene wrapping under neon lights that flash “farm raised ‘organic’ meat” as if “no animal was harmed in making” this sterile little package. Frankly, I think it’s an insult to the animal’s soul that we are “disgusted” with the act of hunting, scavenging and butchering an animal to nurture our bodies. Animals deserve respect whether they are to look at, eat, or photograph. It is their interaction with us that cries for us to learn to live from them.  Animals have a spirit that desires a connection to their environment and, whether we think we are distant relatives, or are entirely disconnected from their world, we need them to survive. Many religions believe that we are “all one” in soul and spirit.  So this day, I stopped the truck and asked myself, how can I be a direct participant in the life of this being? How can I honor his majestic being?

I called the State Police and gave the location of the buck and asked that they have a Game Warden call me on my cell phone. I wanted to ask permission to take this animal home and butcher it so that the participants of VT Outdoor Women’s Doe Camp could benefit from eating the nourishing flesh of this deer. The call came back quickly. The Game Warden gave me a “tag number” for the deer and I loaded him into the back of my truck then called in to work to tell them I’d be a couple of hours late.

Cleaning a road kill animal, particularly a large one, is not for the faint of heart. Frequently the organs inside are damaged and must be removed quickly and cleanly. It is not uncommon to catch an unfortunate whiff of decomposing matter and fight back the natural gag reflex. I smoke a pipe and send the smoke up to the heavens in prayer for the spirit of the animal. It also helps to keep my breakfast where it belongs. I butcher the body of the animal, blessing each part of it.

I process each quarter into attractive pot roasts, rump roasts, flank steaks, burger, and loin steaks. I wrap each piece carefully and seal it in a vacuum sealer, clearly marked with the type of cut and the tag number. Next I mix some pure pork butt with the burger meat and add in some hot Italian sausage seasoning, then run it through the grinder and feed it into genuine hog casings, creating perfectly cylindrical sausages to be included in a homemade spaghetti sauce on a frigid winter night.

The meat is delivered to Doe Camp in a cooler and the recipes are prepared for the 70+ ladies that will attend this weekend retreat at Jay Peak Resort in Jay, VT. We will use the meat to create succulent dishes in our “Easy Gourmet Cooking” class and another class called “OutdoorCampfire Cooking”.  The ladies and I take the venison roast and cube it into nice square bite-size morsels, flash searing it in a glaze of Jack Daniels and butter. The loin is placed on a  shish-ke-bob skewer and a slice of blue cheese is placed on it topped with a sliced, de-seeded jalapeno, then wrapped in a thick slice of Dakin Farms cob-smoked bacon and skewered. Cooked over an open fire made from a hand drill and bow-started fire, this meal is enjoyed by those who help to prepare it. The beauty and the wonder of the animal are blessed by sharing its essence with those who can honor and appreciate the value of the nourishment. The life of this forkhorn was not wasted.  

If I hadn’t slammed on the brakes and backed up to pick it up, his life would still not have been wasted. It would have nourished some predator and the buck’s energy would have passed into another realm of the same animal kingdom that you and I belong to. After all, we too are animals, and that instinct to scavenge is one of the oldest of natural-born characteristics in all of us. Some do it in the grocery store. Some of us do it on the back roads.
Here's my question: Should we be paranoid about this as an attack on our gun rights or do we need to adapt to survive?

Paranoia or Reasonable Response?