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Sunday, November 14, 2021

Deer Hunting in Paris


Photo from hunting

Congratulations to Mudflats contributor Paula Lee who has won a big, fancy, and prestigious award for her wonderful book Deer Hunting in Paris! She’s given us an excerpt to enjoy.

Winner of the 2014 Travel Book award of the Society of American Travel Writers, Deer Hunting in Paris is an unexpectedly funny exploration of a vanishing way of life in a complex cosmopolitan world. The liberal author, Paula Lee, recovers her roots in rural Maine by running after a headless chicken, learning how to sight-in a rifle, shooting skeet, and butchering game animals. Along the way, she figures out how to keep her boyfriend’s conservative Republican family from “mistaking” her for a deer and shooting her at the clothesline. The Lowell Thomas Awards are the most prestigious in travel journalism.

As usual, Fox News is blaring in the background. Predictably, the guests are complaining about health care and mocking Dems who are whining about death threats. On her Facebook page, Sarah Palin has posted the names of pro-health care reform Democrats and labeled them with crosshairs. So what’s the big deal? This is all in good fun, the talking TV people explain. Obama, Oprah, Olbermann: only lily-livered liberals would get upset about being in the crosshairs, because the crosshairs are fake. No actual guns being pointed and no triggers being pulled. Stop complaining, ya sissies! On and on they gabble, the Fox TV people mocking the alphabet channels and I wonder if they know that a fox is considered vermin by people who read Aesop. Nowadays, however, that’s pretty much no one, because these fables come with morals, and morals are bad for business.

For folks who tweet, here is the limerick version of the “Fox and the Grapes,” from Baby’s Own Aesop, 1887:

This Fox has a longing for grapes:
He jumps, but the bunch still escapes.
So he goes away sour;
And, ’tis said, to this hour
Declares that he’s no taste for grapes.

The fable is the origin of the phrase, “He’s got sour grapes,” which is a way of poking fun at bitter folks badmouthing fine things out of their reach. But Aesop was a Greek slave and a pagan to boot, so who gives a flying fig what he thinks? We’re indivisible Americans, pledging allegiance to one nation under God, dammit, not to one fox under grapes!

As it happens, these same greedy foxes also appear in the Bible, and it’s pretty much SOS for poor Reynard: Shoot On Sight. “Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes, that ruin the vineyards, our vines,” sings Solomon the Wise in his Song of Songs, because foxes really do eat grapes, though they’d rather eat mice. Without grapes, there’s no wine. Without wine, there’s no women. Without women, there’s no song. No bottles of plonk, no gallons of Gallo, no champagne wishes and caviar dreams. Just plain water at royal weddings, and Christ isn’t on the guest list to perform handy miracles. The faithful panicked. Obligingly, 18th-century Baptist preacher John Gill unleashed a righteous rant damning the fox to extermination. Thundering mightily from the pulpit, Gill warned his flock that foxes practice wily ruses. Such tricks confuse good Christians, for foxes are very appealing. Yet by their nature, foxes are deceitful,

they put on sheep’s clothing, transform themselves into angels of light, mimic the voice of Gospel ministers, use their
phrases and expressions, that they may not be easily discovered; and are abominable in their principles and practices, and
to be shunned by all good men.

Try defending foxes after that sermon full of holy hellfire and brimstone. My father never preached like that. He preferred heartwarming parables that made everybody feel better about their place in the world. He told stories of honoring God through good deeds, and reminded the congregation to Love thy neighbor as thyself. His sermons were the polar opposite of the kind of stuff Gill wrote in his remarkable and very long Exposition of the Entire Bible. Published in the 1740s, it identified Solomon’s fox as a false teacher hiding God’s truths. Such a creature hides in plain sight, like the serial killer who tells Miss Prim his date, “I’m a bad, bad boy,” with a crooked smile and a twinkle in his eye, and she feels lucky instead of running away at full speed.

“He will beat you all at piety,” Samuel Johnson had commented of the wicked winners in this world. It’s one of the first things I think whenever bibles start getting thumped at me by women cloaked in humility but wearing expensive boobs. I’m good, thank you. Go thump yourself.

“Stop watching TV,” John interrupts me.

‘But…” I protest, wiggling my hands at the screen. “A puppy is going to be on Fox News!”

“They’ll show the dog again,” he says drily, tugging me towards the back door. “I need you to be my spotter. I’ve got to sight in my rifle.”


“So you’ll have venison for supper this fall.”

“I thought your hunting rifle has a scope on it,” I say.

“Yep,” he replies briskly.

“So what’s there to do?”

In reply, he pulls me to my feet and starts prodding me outside. “Targets are already set up out back,” he tells me as he tugs me through the sunroom and onto the deck. Then he adds, as an afterthought. “They’re political signs.”

“We’re shooting at political signs?” I repeat, as visions of sour grapes dance in my head.

“We’re aiming for the O,” John instructs, as he hands me a spotting scope and parks me next to the railing on the deck. “Stay up here,” he orders, as he walks down the steps and starts setting up a shooting table on a patch of ground to my left. If he reaches up with his right hand, he’d be able to grab my left foot. “Don’t ever get in front of a man with a gun,” he reminds me. “And confirm where I am before you start moving, if, say, you decide you have to pee. I’ll always tell you before I’m going to shoot. I won’t take a shot until you give me a verbal response.”

He natters on with the usual safety instructions, but my brain is still stuck on “…we’re aiming for the O.” Oh no! my head shrieks. The political signs are pretty far away from the house but one is black with white letters, the other is yellow with black letters. Somebody has spray painted them with red paint that didn’t quite stick, so it has slid down in the manner of movie marquee blood. Right then, I make up my mind. If it turns out these are signs announcing “God hates Winos” or “Hobosexuality is a sin,” I am not letting him shoot at them. I don’t care if there isn’t a picture of Osama or Omarosa playing The Villain. When you’re in the middle of nowhere, everybody knows what you’re doing in your backyard. I refuse to end up on Fox News because John’s been shooting holes into right-wing arguments.



3 Responses to “Deer Hunting in Paris”
  1. mike from iowa says:

    Don’t know Ms Lee,but she has my permission to hunt corn fed iowa whitetails as close to my garden as she so chooses.(spring through fall)

  2. Alaska Pi says:

    This one looks like it might be a fun read- cool beans! for Ms Lee and thanks for sharing AKM!

  3. Zyxomma says:

    Brilliant. Congratulations to Paula Lee. And to Malala Yousefzai, who is one of two winners of the Nobel Peace Prize.

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