A hunter’s response to the meaning of life?

Editor’s note: To celebrate David E. Petzal’s 50th birthday at F&S, we asked staff and contributors to choose and share their favorite Petzal story (not an easy task – there are many good ones). Today’s choice, “What is the meaning of life?” (December 2019 – January 2020), made by Richard Mann.

When Petzal started writing about Field & Stream, I did not kiss a girl – at least not intentionally. Some girls once held me on the playground to relax. I pretended to resist, but here and there I thought I had found the meaning of life. Isha gabim. But at the age of seven I did not have Petzal’s advice to guide me. Of course, half a century ago, Petzal probably did not know so much anyway.

Now he knows things – important things – and gives clear and blunt advice, just as advice should be given. “What is the meaning of life?” is a compilation of 27 truths learned throughout the life of hunting and staying outdoors. It’s one of my favorites. Every time I read it, I think, Damn, I can write like this. I can not. No one can. And that’s why Petzal has been writing about Field & Stream for almost as long as I’m been alive.Richard Mann

Old School Hunting Illustrations
Our rifle editor has learned one or two things during his life spent abroad. Illustrations by Peter oumanski

I was around. When I was born, there were living men who had fought in the Civil War. I remember parts of World War II and I clearly remember life in front of the television. I bought my first rifle in 1956, started shooting in organized races in 1958 and got my first hunting license in 1960. After 70-a few years fart on this planet, mostly out of doors, I can not you say exactly that meaning of all. But as the insurance ad says, I know one or two things because I’ve seen one or two things. Here are some of them.

  1. Hunters, more than other people, respect life because they know much better than others how difficult it is to stay alive and how suddenly life can end.
  2. There is no worse experience than sitting a dog. She would die for you, and now she is dying for you.
  3. Big game hunting is the best flattener among men. You can either climb the mountain or you can not; you can either shoot or you can not; either hold your end or not. Money, education and social status have no bearing on any of these.
  4. Nothing in nature catches your attention like a stamping of gray paws with water still pouring into it.
  5. According to anthropologists, Neanderthals never built large fires to sit around and share stories, which is one of the reasons why they disappeared and our ancestors did not.
  6. The best character judges I have ever met are African trackers. Their estimates are brutal. A hunter with a drinking problem became the “Bwana Ginni Bottle”. To Robert Ruark they said, “He has bad legs and a lot of fear.” To paraphrase Hamlet: Of all the people in the world, you do not want a bad rating from them.
  7. The great, unspoken temptation of the true wilderness, in an age when we are trying to remove every danger from life, is that if you break it, you may die in it.
  8. When the Moment Comes, your shock-resistant, waterproof, SEAL-approved $ 75 butane surviving butane lighter will go click… click… click… click… click… click….
  9. Aroma is the great runner of outdoor memory. If you smell a devil, your hair will stand up every time you scent it afterwards.
  10. You may have the hardest body in your gym, but you will not be able to keep up with someone running in the mountains as a common thing, even if he is 30 years older and smokes three packs a day.
  11. Ecstasy can be defined as how you feel when you get your creature and you can stay in your sleeping bag while all the other poor bastards who have not got their own are coming out at 3:30 in the morning.
  12. Hunting and fishing are, at their core, the sports of solitude, and they will end when enough heads decide that nothing is worth being out of touch with.
  13. Some of the biggest thoughts happen in the bathroom. If people tell me they read my stuff on “John,” I take it as a compliment.
  14. To be afraid is a waste of time, in nature or anywhere else. What bites you in the ass will be something you have never worried about.
  15. There comes a moment in the life of every hunter or fisherman when intuition flourishes and they catch on. In my case, this applies to hunting, but not to fly fishing. I became an acceptable actor, but I remained confused about everything else. If this happens to you, accept it. You have no choice.
  16. True shooting requires a calm mind. I have never met an angry man who was a good hit.
  17. When Homo sapiens it is finally gone, the Earth will give a vibration of relief and will be cleansed again, as it has always done, over and over again, in its 4.6 billion years.
  18. A long time ago, I read the words, “Like most brave men, he was also polite.” Experience has proven this. The sons of whores you meet usually have a yellow belt, except they are sons of whores.
  19. I have written about Field & Stream since 1972 and I’m most proud of the fact that every time I made a mistake, readers caught it.
  20. Hospitals ask you to describe your pain on a scale of one to 10, where 10 is unbearable. There is an 11, and you can experience it on any horse ride longer than a tenth of a mile.
  21. If you want to become a legend in your time, never say a word about your achievements; let others do it for you.
  22. “Thank you” is the most useful phrase in any language. So I learned to say it in Spanish, French, German, Italian, Swedish, Shone, Russian, Kikuyu, and Afrikaans.
  23. For those who would be writers, here is a golden rule: Keep your mouth shut and listen.
  24. In New Zealand, a South African told me that the reason he was hunting was to be able to stand alone in the desert and remember his insignificance. Ted Trueblood did the same by letting the campfire go out while he was sitting watching the stars.
  25. If you want to know the true value of a person, look at how he copes with the big disappointment in a big game hunt.
  26. Whenever you leave wherever you have been, go back and look for the last time to engrave in your mind what it looks like because you will probably never see it again.
  27. What I would like as my epitaph: “He had enough intelligence to appreciate it all.”

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