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). The beginning of things is in search of editor Will Brantley, who has chosen “Oh, ****!” published in November 2003.
It is comforting to know that a guy like David E. Petzal can hold a job for 50 years without turning to TikTok. I have never heard anyone who has worked directly with Petzal describe him as particularly delicate or warm, but he has never been anything but polite to me.
What I like most about Petzal’s words has nothing to do with rifles. Some of his favorite words, like the son of a *****, *** t and *********** r, are also among my favorites. Over and over again, the editors have warned me not to swear so much at the stories I write. I have never paid attention to her b ******* t. I know what I heard in hunting camps when I was growing up, and I know what I still hear in camps around the world. Once in Argentina, I heard my guide, Callie, being bullied by other guides following a duck hunt. “What did he say?” I asked the translator, as they spoke Spanish. She replied: “Callie called them all little ****** who need to teach their clients how to shoot.”
“Oh **** !, A Sportsman’s Guide to Profanity, ”describes the right curse as it really is: an art form. Petzal writes: “Red-necked redwoods in services and in Dixie (often the same red-necked puppet forests) have elevated blasphemy to something close to poetry.”
To really appreciate it, you will need to read the rest of ****** g yourself.
The verb is just as part of hunting and fishing like Vienna sausage and wet toilet paper. It is a manifestation of the freedom offered from outside. If you want to say **** or ******* because it describes your gun or your dog or deer or fish that just escaped, you can do that.
Throughout its long and glorious history, Field & Stream has had a strict anti-profanity policy, except occasionally blight or drat. But now, in the 21st century, the limitations are finally being removed and I can freely address some of the questions about its use that readers have been asking over the years.
Is swearing a sign of weak character?
Definitely not. In 1971, he invited me to hunt in Montana by an outdoor writer I was familiar with. Since I had never been to the West before and was anxious to impress people as a man of taste and refinement, I showed up in his cabin with a skirt, a blazer and a tie. His wife, Priscilla, glanced at me and said, “Holy ****, Norman, what **** have you brought here?” Their lab, the boss, bit me in the leg.
Priscilla could have said, “I’m very happy to have met you, but your way of dressing is ridiculous and it is painfully clear to even the most casual observer that you are not in the countryside in a rural setting like this.” But this would have taken much longer and would not have had almost the same effect. As for the boss, I learned that I was lucky he only bit me on the leg. His usual form of greeting required people to take their pants to the cleaners. The chief was, in the words of the group of dogs, a “knee ******”.
Norman called Priscilla “Duchess” because of her lack of perfection, but she was and is one of the most generous souls I have ever met and a host of people owe her a thousand acts of kindness. She just let go of it when the swearing expressed what she felt.
Are there times when you should not curse, even when it’s appropriate?
Yes. Years ago, a member of a club I belonged to lost a clay bird and it cost him a huge shooting championship. This fellow was not only an excellent hunter and a competitor to the death, but he was a gentleman, and instead of calling the relentless bird a wretched ******* or a low rent ***** * ***** he simply said, “Oh dear, this is going to be very costly.”
Viewers were silent and amazed, and I was told some were crying. At that moment he became a legend.
Is blasphemy really the tool of the ignorant, the half-enlightened and the uneducated?
No, and as proof, I give you two excellent ones Field & Flow editors, Warren Page and Gene Hill. Both were Harvard graduates and Page taught English at a very exclusive preparatory school. If there were two more knowledgeable men, educated and eloquent, I do not know who they could be and both cursed with imagination, passion and intensity.
Hill’s observations on the final disposition of some of his weapons and rods were particularly fascinating, though anatomically impossible. But most of his conversation was so lewd, grotesque and blasphemous that I could not reproduce it here, even using stars for his most chosen words.
For Page, the word F was breast milk and he used it like all parts of speech. The first time he invited me to go shoot with him, I showed up with a wild rifle. Page, who hated repulsion, looked at him and said, “What are you going to do with this? That weapon ******** will kill you. “
On the third stroke, the scan went one centimeter into my eyebrow and as blood spilled on my blouse, it jumped positively out of joy. “I told you the ******* gun would kill you.”
What do you consider good hunting and fishing offenses?
It has to be imaginative and it has to be used as much as spices are used in cooking. Implemented in moderation and with creativity, it makes the conversation unforgettable. Once, in Illinois, I shot a pheasant that had not even been flattened during flight and hit it with every bullet in the shell and maybe even the rod.
“Wow,” said the friend I was with, “you drove **** and shot from ******** into his brain.”
Which was infinitely more descriptive than “Golly, you probably got that bird fast”.
Where can I learn how to curse artistically?
In the armed forces, or in any hunting camp in the South. Peckwoodwoods Redneck in services and Dixie (often the same red-necked peckerwoods) have raised blasphemy to something close to poetry.
In basic training, I heard a training sergeant inform a character that “Your foot smells like a cold smell coming from a wet wolf pile ****”.
When I went to Fort Knox, Kentucky, I was warned, “We have mosquitoes so big here that they can **** a flat-legged turkey.”
As a civilian ******* again, on a deer hunt in South Carolina that occurred after a weekly rain, I heard an elderly secessionist warn a young man who had not brought his poncho that: “Boy, will to moisturize. It rains hard like a tall cow ****** on a flat rock. ”
Later, when the kid came in submerged and hypothermic, they said to him: “Gawud dayum, son, you are shaking a dog ******* peach holes”.
Could Shakespeare (whose works are full of insults) have said it better? Hayull, no.
On a partridge hunt in Texas, I heard a Yankee friend bragging to his host about his new cowboy hat. The Texan looked at him with pale eyes for a minute and said:
“Ah, believe ah’d loop to buy me two of them. [long, long pause] One to insert and the other to cover it.
This was the last we saw from the hat.
Do you see a bright future for hunting and cursing fishing?
I believe outdoor swearing is a growing industry. As long as the dogs break points and the hunters will not miss the deer and trout tops, there will be men and women standing up and protesting against careless fate using every word available to them.
Who knows ****?