The quality and species of firewood matters to me, because my Pennsylvania log cabin has a stone groundfloor. The two-foot-thick walls keep it nicely insulated, but also tend to make it chilly as a well in cold weather, so I pretty much have to keep a log fire going from October to April.
Softwoods, like pine, burn too fast and release too much creosote, drastically upping your likelihood of chimney fires. Insufficiently aged wood, or wood cut live, is heavy to lift and hard to get to burn. You rapidly run through your tinder, starting and re-starting the fire as the moist log smokes at you.
They used to sell wood by the cord –4′ by 8′ by 4′, but nobody really measures in cords today. We buy now by the pickup load.
Jeremy Clarke, in the British Spectator, buys wood in France by the stère, and talks hunting (Outline gets around the paywall):
The other day we ordered a stère from a woodman recommended by an expat English friend. He dumped his load at the foot of the path and climbed up to the house for payment and a drink; €70 a stère is the norm. He wanted €90 and a whisky, ice, no water. I made him a belter and passed it over along with the cash. Would he like to sit? He consented to perch on the arm of the sofa. Our elderly bitch, deeply asleep on the sofa, was woken nostril first by the combination of rare and unusual scents emanating from this thick-set man in his mid-fifties.
He managed his heavy-bottomed whisky glass with an exaggerated delicacy that looked a bit like parody. But his expectant conviviality suggested a previous acquaintance with the expat English bourgeoisie, who, for all their faults and absurdities, offer strong spirits at 10 o’clock in the morning and defer obsequiously to the opinions of a man of the woods and forests. Then Catriona came in and sat and accepted a whisky also.
The woodman had noted with approval the stuffed boar’s head wearing Ray-Bans fixed above the side door. This moved the conversation in the direction of boars and boar-hunting and it turned out that we were entertaining the president of a local boar hunt. He owns 19 hunting dogs, a small arsenal of rifles and shotguns, and only yesterday had organized an 80-gun shoot followed by a wood-cutting session and piss-up. Another whisky, young man, we said? The empty glass was smartly presented while our old dog fastened her nose to his trousers.
Catriona interrogated him about his sex life. He was currently living with a much younger woman, an obstreperous vegetarian, he said. Then, suspiciously: we weren’t ecologists, were we? (An ecologist in his book was a shorthand term of abuse for an animal rights supporter.) I put it on record that I was not an ecologist and in fact had taken part in a boar hunt in which the chef had one leg shorter than the other and three dogs were gravely injured by boars’ tusks during the course of the day. Ah, said the woodman. His dogs were fitted with Kevlar jackets. Expensive but he no longer spends half the time sewing up his injured dogs.
Ernest Hemingway posing with two trophy kudu | Africa, 1934 |
Contemporary British & American newspapers regularly get hold of a photo of a Big Game hunter posing happily with a trophy, and write up him or her as a malevolent monster who sadistically murdered the beautiful, noble, and happy wild critter, who is invariably personalized with a cutsey personal name like “Cecil the Lion.”
Their gullible urban-based readership, who characteristically think that meat grows on supermarket shelves, and that wild animals normally die peaceful deaths in retirement homes, eat up this nonsense and invariably enthusiastically participate in two-minutes of hate. Too many of these people then write checks to phony-baloney Animal Protection Societies (whose officers draw princely salaries and which devote 90% of their budgets to fund-raising) as well as to Anti-Hunting Extremist Organizations.
Hunters are not actually sadists. The hunter appreciates, understands, and cares far more for the hunted animal than the sentimental television watcher or the Animal Rights crackpot. The hunter understands how Nature actually works, and finds powerful emotional and spiritual reward in personal participation in its basic and fundamental process, the contest between the hunter and the game.
“The true trophy hunter is a self-disciplined perfectionist seeking a single animal, the ancient patriarch well past his prime that is often an outcast from his own kind. If successful, he will enshrine the trophy in a place of honor. This is a more noble and fitting end than dying on some lost and lonely edge where the scavengers will pick his bones and his magnificent horns will weather away and be lost forever.”
French hunting is different. They call their hunts “Rallyes” or “Equipages.” Their hunt uniforms are more complicated. They use circular horns and lots of people carry horns where for us only the huntsman has a horn, and where our huntsman only blows a handful of conventional signals, they play fanfares. We hunt foxes and coyotes. They hunt hare, wild boar, roe deer, and even red deer. People too old to ride car follow over here. In France, they have a load of bicycle followers.
Tess Talley, an American trophy hunter who went viral in 2018 after posting a picture of a giraffe sheâ€™d killed, spoke out for the first time since the controversy in an interview with CBS aired this week.
The image, which showed Talley posing next to a dead giraffe sheâ€™d bagged during a trip to South Africa in 2017, sparked widespread backlash.
Talley spoke to â€œCBS This Morningâ€ on Friday and revealed that the worldwide outcry hadnâ€™t dulled her passion for hunting.
â€œItâ€™s a hobby, itâ€™s something that I love to do,â€ she said and explained that the 2017 kill was part of a conservation effort to manage the wildlife population in the area.
â€œHe was delicious,â€ Talley told CBS Newsâ€™ Adam Yamaguchi when he asked about the particular kill that made her one of the worldâ€™s most infamous hunters.
She also revealed that sheâ€™d made a gun case and decorative pillows out of the old black giraffe.
â€œI am proud to hunt. And I am proud of that giraffe,â€ Talley told a â€œCBS This Morningâ€ studio panel.
Co-host Tony Dokoupil pressed her on the seeming â€œpleasureâ€ and â€œjoyâ€ she got out of hunting.
Talley was unapologetic.
â€œYou do what you love to do. Itâ€™s joy,â€ she said. â€œIf you donâ€™t love what you do, youâ€™re not gonna continue to do it.â€
â€œCBS This Morningâ€ co-host Dana Jacobson alluded to previous comments Talley made, in which she said she felt â€œremorseâ€ after killing an animal.
â€œIf thereâ€™s remorse, why do it?â€ Jacobson asked.
â€œEverybody thinks that the easiest part is pulling the trigger. And itâ€™s not,â€ Talley replied. â€œThatâ€™s the hardest part. But you gain so much respect, and so much appreciation for that animal because you know what that animal is going through. They are put here for us. We harvest them, we eat them.â€
Talley said she was â€œsurprisedâ€ by the reaction to the photo she posted to social media showing off her kill.
Members of the urban community of fashion tend to think that guilt-free meat is simply grown on supermarket shelves.
Saint Hubertus was born (probably in Toulouse) about the year 656. He was the eldest son of Bertrand, Duke of Aquitaine. As a youth, Hubert was sent to the Neustrian court of Theuderic III at Paris, where his charm and agreeable address led to his investment with the dignity of “count of the palace”. Like many nobles of the time, Hubert was addicted to the chase. Meanwhile, the tyrannical conduct of Ebroin, mayor of the Neustrian palace, caused a general emigration of the nobles and others to the court of Austrasia at Metz. Hubert soon followed them and was warmly welcomed by Pepin of Herstal, mayor of the palace, who created him almost immediately grand-master of the household. About this time (682) Hubert married Floribanne, daughter of Dagobert, Count of Leuven.Their son Floribert of LiÃ¨ge would later become bishop of LiÃ¨ge, for bishoprics were all but accounted fiefs heritable in the great families of the Merovingian kingdoms. He nearly died at the age of 10 from “fever”.
His wife died giving birth to their son and Hubert retreated from the court, withdrew into the forested Ardennes, and gave himself up entirely to hunting. However, a great spiritual revolution was imminent. On Good Friday morning, when the faithful were crowding the churches, Hubert sallied forth to the chase. As he was pursuing a magnificent stag or hart, the animal turned and, as the pious legend narrates, he was astounded at perceiving a crucifix standing between its antlers, while he heard a voice saying: “Hubert, unless thou turnest to the Lord, and leadest an holy life, thou shalt quickly go down into hell”. Hubert dismounted, prostrated himself and said, “Lord, what wouldst Thou have me do?” He received the answer, “Go and seek Lambert, and he will instruct you.”…
Saint Hubertus (German) is honored among sport-hunters as the originator of ethical hunting behavior.
During Hubert’s religious vision, the Hirsch (German: deer) is said to have lectured Hubertus into holding animals in higher regard and having compassion for them as God’s creatures with a value in their own right. For example, the hunter ought to only shoot when a humane, clean and quick kill is assured. He ought shoot only old stags past their prime breeding years and to relinquish a much anticipated shot on a trophy to instead euthanize a sick or injured animal that might appear on the scene. Further, one ought never shoot a female with young in tow to assure the young deer have a mother to guide them to food during the winter. Such is the legacy of Hubert who still today is taught and held in high regard in the extensive and rigorous German and Austrian hunter education courses.
The legacy is also followed by the French chasse Ã courre masters, huntsmen and followers, who hunt deer, boar and roe on horseback and are the last direct heirs of Saint Hubert in Europe. Chasse Ã courre is currently enjoying a revival in France. The Hunts apply a specific set of ethics, rituals, rules and tactics dating back to the early Middle-Ages. Saint Hubert is venerated every year by the Hunts in formal ceremonies.
There is, at the root of all this, a passion. For years I pondered the question of why I, and others, become emotional about firearms, new and old. Almost always, the passion is directed at finer guns. They could be the largely hand-fitted, hand-finished Winchesters of 1900, or the Colts of the same era, or the best bespoke Purdys and Lancasters. Or, they could be medium-quality boxlocks of the years before 1914. Different guns appeal to different people, but there are common threads.
The common thread here is hand labor –the skill and knowledge that flows from a craftsman’s head through his fingers, into the gun that he is making. That magical quality stays throughout its life, and that life can be very long — virtually infinite, in fact. These guns are made with steel and wood, crafted in a vise with a file, tempered by fire. A thousand years from now, that gun can still be shooting, or made to shoot once again, provided a man exists with the skill and the knowledge and the vise and the file and a piece of steel.
The magic simply does not exist with a gun fashioned from polymer, stamped out by a machine. No matter how well it functions in the short term, it is still a product of a disposable age. Fine guns are not disposable. They are made to last forever.
A man and his dog go out to hunt grouse, and he takes with him a hundred-year-old English shotgun. He may be the gun’s sixth or seventh owner. Each of these participants –dog, man, gun, bird — is an essential element in a timeless ballet, but each participates within its own cycle. A grouse may live for three seasons, a dog may hunt for ten; the man will hunt for 50, but the guncan go a-birding for a century, and the grouse as a species outlasts them all.
This metaphysical reality of hunting is one of the things that intrigues serious bird hunters so much, and gives us all a feeling of participating in something much larger, and older, and more important than ourselves. There is an element of immortality about it.
Hamlet, it turns out, is really all about hunting.
Shakespeare repudiates two fundamental tenets of humanist culture. First, the core belief that history is a repository of wisdom from which human societies can and should learnâ€¦. Second, the conviction that the true value of human life could best be understood by a return ad fontesâ€”to the origins of things, be they historical, textual, moral, poetic, philosophical, or religious (Protestant and Roman Catholic alike). For Shakespeare, this is a shamâ€¦. Like the past in general, origins are pliableâ€”whatever the competing or complementary urges of appetite, honour, virtue, and expediency need them to be.
The fruitless search for absolutes by which to act or judge is doomed to failure: â€œHamlet turns to moral philosophy, love, sexual desire, filial bonds, friendship, introversion, poetry, realpolitik, and religion in the search for meaning or fixity. In each case, it discovers nothing of significance.â€
The absence of any moral certainties means that itâ€™s a â€œkill or be killedâ€ world, and the most impressive chapter in Hamlet and the Vision of Darkness establishes how the language of predation saturates the play. Lewisâ€™s brilliant analysis here gives fresh meaning to long-familiar if half-understood phrases, including the â€œenseamedâ€ marital bed, â€œBait of falsehood,â€ â€œA cry of players,â€ â€œWe coted them on the way,â€ â€œStart not so wildly,â€ â€œI am tame, sir,â€ â€œWeâ€™ll eâ€™en to it like French falconers,â€ and â€œWhen the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw.â€ Thirty years ago this analysis might have been the basis of an important, if localized, studyâ€”but that sort of book could never find a major publisher today. Here, it becomes a clever way of establishing what for Lewis is the playâ€™s bass line:
Whatever an individual might strive to believe, he always and only exists as a participant in a form of huntingâ€”one in which he, like everyone else, is both predator and prey.