A couple of weeks ago, when our fabulous volunteers from Brandeis University were here, a couple of young female students were accosted in the woods while they were posting “No Hunting” signs. They had gotten quite a bit off the survey map boundary, and were indeed posting trees that were not on our property. The first inclination they had of this was when two hunters, with guns, politely asked them if they were hunting in the wrong place. I’m not sure how they answered, but not too much later, the owner of the property – one of our boundary neighbors who’d rented his land to the hunters – came up on the girls in a rage.
He threatened them with a lawsuit for “spiking the trees” (with poultry staples, which was the one funny thing about the whole situation, as clearly he had no idea what a true tree spike looks like), thus “ruining his chances to log the area;” he yelled and cursed at them; he screamed at them with his finger pointed inches from their faces. They were understandably terrified. Most young women are when they are threatened by strange men in the middle of the woods. Next he made his way through the woods to find Cheryl. He then launched the same unacceptable behaviors at her; she wasn’t terrified, but just about as angry as I’ve ever heard her when she called me on the phone to let me know he was on his way down to us.
All of the rest of the volunteers were having lunch in the kitchen with me and Aram when Cheryl phoned. I hung up and explained what I’d heard to the stunned group. No sooner had I done that than Aram and I headed outside, just as the neighbor pulled up.
I won’t repeat the conversation; but I will say that Aram did an excellent job of de-escalating the situation. I would have taken that thing through the roof. Usually Aram is the one being appropriately outraged in cases involving such things as hyper-sexist hunters in need of serious anger management classes, but for some reason this guy exceeded my ability to be calm when I really need to be. One’s personal feelings need to balance the safety of the animals, always, and being on decent terms with neighbors is a critical aspect of that.
Aram assured him that we would take the signs down ASAP. The neighbor thanked him and drove off. I phoned Cheryl, who told me he’d called to apologize to her (big wow). She put an orange vest on her big black Rottie, picked up a screwdriver, and headed out. She saw where the girls had gotten off course and followed a long line of signs, taking each one down. When she couldn’t see any others, she headed back and figured that was that.
A few days later, she let me know she’d been told by another hunter (who “kindly” offered to shoot any coyotes if we wanted him to) that a 10-point buck had been seen in the woods shared by several properties, including ours, which explained some of the guy’s outrage (because gee golly the status he would get if such a magnificent animal was murdered on his property). Since then, she and her partner have doubled up their usual efforts of walking and talking very loudly through the woods as often as possible and putting out deer food right next to their house where hunters won’t go.
Last Sunday, the neighbor left two signs (one on each of our cars) asking us to please call him. The subsequent conversation revealed that apparently, “No Hunting” signs were still on four of his trees, and he wanted us to take them down. We planned to meet at the bottom of our driveway the following Tuesday. When we did, Aram pulled our our survey, because we still couldn’t believe that our signs were on his trees, given that Cheryl had taken so many down. But the place where he pointed agreed with both of our maps, so we agreed to drive over to his access road and walk up to the place so he could show us the trees.
That walk through the woods with this man is still surreal in my mind. He prattled the entire way, describing where he’d logged, which of his horses he’d sold (and who he’d purchased), places where people in the past had Made Improvements, and other items of interest only to people who still believe humans have the ability to Fix The Forest. Aram kept up our collective end of the conversation, thankfully, because I knew if I opened my mouth I would say something to throw us right into a serious fight. I couldn’t even look at the guy.
All I could think of was the insanity of pretending to be civil to a person who made money in part by allowing people to murder animals on his property. Necessary insanity in this case, but still incredibly awful. I was thankful for my powers of dissociation when he launched into a one-sided conversation about the beavers who, long ago, had built a dam near the bottom of the property, right by the road. They sure aren’t there now, and haven’t been for a long time, so clearly they were either murdered or moved (same thing). I didn’t hear a thing after the word “beaver” and never asked Aram what he’d said. It’s over. I don’t want to know.
We got the signs down and parted ways, hoping that is the end of it for good. The whole thing was necessary to keep the peace and, in so doing, maximize the probability that nothing horrible would happen to the animals at the sanctuary. But oh, what a tangled web of sorrow animal abuse weaves in ways that are impossible to either anticipate or track! What nightmares of association arise when doing sanctuary work. What a general horror-show this world is.
This blog isn’t to attract sympathy for us, by any stretch of the imagination. It’s to give a reminder that in every way, anticipated and not, everywhere we go and whatever we do, we find ways that humans persist in finding ways to hurt and kill other animals. It’s pervasive; it’s grueling; and it’s non-stop. So too must our efforts be in rooting out and eradicating the destructive impulses of our fellow humans.