First Goose

Day before yesterday was Saturday. I dragged myself out of bed that morning at 4:15am and stumbled into my kid’s bedroom. I gave my sound-asleep thirteen year old son, James, a wake-up nudge. Not even two seconds later his eyes blinked wide open and he practically sprang out of bed. With a big smile on his face he gave me a thumbs-up and headed downstairs for some breakfast. The boy was raring to go.

It was to be my son’s first day hunting geese. He was going with someone who is an experienced goose hunter. Which means, alas, he wasn’t going with me.

James was going hunting with a man named George, who is an avid sportsman. George and his wife, Sandy, have been good friends of our family for a long time. They are Christians. They are agrarians. They are homeschoolers. Their youngest son is about the same age as James. But, unlike James, he isn’t interested in hunting. James told me George’s son thinks hunting is boring.

I drove James to George and Sandy’s log cabin home located about 15 minutes from our place. George outfitted him with a 12-gauge over-and-under shotgun. They headed out in George’s pickup to meet with another man, Tom, his six-year-old son, and Gunnar, a black lab birddog.

Before daylight, the hunting party had set themselves up a few rows inside a corn field. They were sitting comfortably in folding camp chairs. In front of them was an alfalfa field with a pond. They set decoys up in the field. Obscured by the corn and some camouflage netting, they waited for daylight.

It was a frosty-cold November morning but James was dressed for it. Picture this: He had on my military surplus “Mickey Mouse” boots (waterproof and incredibly warm, though a few sizes too big for him), insulated Carhart pants, a military surplus wool sweater, Belgian military parka with hood (the coat hung down well below his waist), my insulated deerhide gloves (the best winter gloves I’ve ever owned), and a well-worn, all-leather, WWII aviator’s cap (surprisingly warm).

The geese came in batches, from all directions and many gathered on the pond. Tom was using a call. None of the birds came within shooting range. Then, around 8:30 some geese flew over low enough to shoot. George downed two of them. At the sound of the shot all the geese that had gathered on the pond took flight and headed directly over the hunters. Tom shot two. James shot twice at the last goose to pass over. His second shot brought it down.

Before he went hunting, I wondered if James would like it. I thought he might find it too boring or too cold. But that wasn’t the case. James had a great time. He loved the whole experience.

My son returned home later in the afternoon, goose in hand. Well, not exactly all the goose. I guess it is customary to cut out only the meaty portions of the bird (breast and legs). So he had a plastic bag with red meat. I never realized wild geese have red meat.

The next day (Sunday morning) George and Sanday sat next to us in church. I thanked George for taking James hunting. I figured one hunting session with James would be enough for George. He said they had a good time and, to my surprise, wondered if James could go out hunting again the next morning. It sounded good to me.

That afternoon Marlene cooked the goose (Sandy told her how after church). She sliced the cooked meat into slivers and we all tasted it. On James’s first bite, he chomped down on a small piece of steel shot. Other than that hazard, the meat tasted pretty good. I think it would be better with some sort of sauce. Perhaps some of the chutney Marlene canned a couple years ago (I’ll have to see if there is a jar left in the pantry).

This morning (another frosty one) James was back in the field hunting. The corn had been harvested so they tried a ground blind. No luck. Then he and George went back home for a canoe and headed out to a few special locations. George said he could tell his mom and dad where they went but not anyone else. Hunters like to keep their best hunting locations kind of secret.

They ended up canoeing slowly up a stream that went into a swamp. George, in the back, paddled, while James was in the bow, gun at the ready. They saw some ducks and geese but none close enough to shoot. James and George hunted for just about the entire day. They didn’t get a single bird, but James sure did have a good time of it. While most boys his age were in government school, James was out hunting in the wild. That is the beauty of homeschooling a boy. Flexibility. When something more important comes up, you just go do it.

Some who read this may be wondering why I wasn’t hunting with my son. I could have and perhaps I should have, but I decided against it for a specific reason. I wrote about it somewhat back in three 2005 blog essays: A Son’s Identity, A Son’s Identity (Part 2), and A Son’s Identity (Part 3).

Those essays were about providing wholesome role models for boys. I asserted that fathers should be wholesome role models, but that fathers should also help their sons to find other role models. My friend, George is a fine role model. I know him to be a man of integrity and strong Christian conviction, in addition to being a knowledgeable sportsman (something I am not).

There is something else associated with this matter of shaping a boy’s identity that I know I’ve mentioned here before but can’t recall where it was. I believe it is very, very important that a boy, as he gets older, develops wholesome interests and skills that are his alone within the family. He becomes the specialist in this particular area of expertise; the resident expert. When this happens, the boy develops self-esteem and confidence, and it leads him to become more independent. Independent at 13 years old? Well, yes, to a degree. Slowly but surely we want our sons to learn skills, acquire wisdom, and develop confidence so they can one day leave to establish their own family.

I hope they won’t leave too far, but that’s another blog subject for another day. And if I had girls, I would not want be training them for independence (and that’s a blog I will let someone else write, since none of my children are girls).

In the final analysis, James is actively pursuing a healthy interest. He is learning about how to build blinds, how to call geese, how to position the decoys, how to cut the meat off the bird, and much more. He is now the goose hunter of the family. And someday I will go goose hunting with him. When I do, he will be able to teach me how it’s done. That’s something I’m looking forward to.


Anonymous said...

"And if I had girls, I would not want be training them for independence"'d be training them to be dependent, then? I'm not sure what you're trying to get across here, but i'd like you to address it, rather than simply state something like that and let it sit there.

SzélsőFa said...

I'm with anon on the issues of reaising girls, but anyway.

I like your attitude towards homeschooling and presenting role models to your son(s). It seems quite reasonable and unfortunately, a lot of people don't even think about role models in the life of their offprings.
I have a boy, 11, and a girl, soon to be 8, and I always have a discussion with my DH about what models do they see, how can we possibly make them fit for growing up, how to give them the proper knowledge. More often than not, goverment schools are unable to fulfill this role.
The responsibility of parenthood is enourmous.
But it's also a great challenge.

Michael Bunker said...

This is just my opinion and I am not speaking for Herrick, but I think I know what he is saying. I am raising 3 daughters and I am raising them to be honorable help-meets to their husbands. This is not "dependency" as if they would perish without a husband (my daughters are very well trained in the basics of life and living), but dependency - meaning that they realize they are designed by God to be under the loving guidance and support of a man, and that their happiness depends on their willingness to fulfill the purpose for which they were created by God - which is to glorify Him in service to their husbands, as a type of the relationship between Christ and the Church. A man and a woman are different, and Biblical Womanhood requires that a woman depend on her husband for leadership, guidance, authority, teaching, correction, love, and nurturing.

Anyway, thanks Herrick for the blogpost. Very interesting. I've not hunted goose before.

Michael Bunker

Troy said...

Very well said Herrick. Thank you for sharing. I think I better understand why my Dad did some of the things he did now when I was growing up and that same age.

And by the way, two of your books arrived yesterday. So this winter I'll be building a chicken plucker and sharing the "Writings of a Deliberate Agrarian" with my wife. Thank You!

Herrick Kimball said...

Since you ask, I may touch upon what I mean in a future blog entry. My answer would, I suspect, meet with disapproval from many.

Hungary or America... Government schools are government schools. And I agree with you. More often than not they fall short in giving children what they need. I'm curious... is there any kind of a homeschooling movement in Hungary? Is it legal to homeschool?

Yes, you know what I was saying.

I sell a whole lot more chicken plucker books than Deliberate Agrarian books. But I believe the DA book has more valuable ideas. Thanks for buying the books. I hope you and your wife will be inspired by both books.

SzélsőFa said...

Homeschooling is NOT encouraged, BUT is ALLOWED. It is useful if the kid has 'special needs' such as AD/HD.
I homeschooled my son for half of a school year.

Anonymous said...

I disagree about not raising girls to be independant. Independance may mean something different for women than it does for men, but it is no less vital. Mr. Kimball, your wife has her own businesses, does that make her less of a "help-meet"?


Herrick Kimball said...

Hi Ellendra--
You are correct that my wife is very enterprising with her baked goods and homemade soap business. And that does not make her any less of a help-meet. I'm glad you brought this up.

There is a significant difference though. She does not work outside the home under the authority of other men as their helpmeet. She does not have the stress and responsibility of supporting our family with her home business. And she is a full-time mother in the home, involving our children (and sometimes me) in her business.

Marci said...

I agree about raising girls to be dependent. I was a very independent young woman and that only got me into trouble. I am my husband's help meet. He like Herrick, helps me in endeavors, but first and foremost, I am in the home to keep it running smoothly and to support my husband in what he does. I am no less than my husband because of this. However, it is what God ordained for me, and I have never been happier!!

Anonymous said...

I think we may be using two very different definitions for the word "independent", and I can't quite read your mental dictionary from here.

It's my independence that has kept me out of trouble.


Herrick Kimball said...

Hi Ellendra,

You are right.... as so often is the case, people have to have a proper understanding of definitions in order to properly understand each other.

If your definition of independence has kept you out of trouble, that is a good thing!

Anonymous said...

yup thats all women are to you - slavemates. not like God gave women perfectly good brains for a reason- nope not at all, like tits on a chicken. barefoot and pregnant, guess my daddy should be lynched for learning me how to read and do math and use the devil machine called a computer. better go now, the king will be home soon and i wouldnt want hinm to have to get off his ass and actually do something

Anonymous said...

I've been reading through a lot of your blog and have enjoyed it thoroughly. I was even considering ordering one of your books, that is until I came across this blog post. I simply cannot support the family business of someone of this mind-set. It's unfortunate because I believe faith, family and sustainability are of the upmost importance. To be so blind as to think God made women only to serve her husband and her children is terribly sad. All I can say is I'm glad you didn't have any girls and I feel for the women who marry your sons, that is if they adopt your interpretation of the bible. I regret that I cannot ethically support your business or continue to visit your blog.

Herrick Kimball said...


When you say that I think "God made women only to serve her husband and her children" you have put beliefs into my mind that I have never thought, and words into my mouth that I have never said (or written).

I'm sorry that you have completely misunderstood and misstated what I believe.

But I do understand the subject is sensitive to many and there is a lot of misunderstanding, or just plain resistance to it.

That "minor" point aside, I suspect that you currently support the businesses of numerous people who have this "mindset" that you find so offensive, and you don't even know it. The difference is that I have opened myself up here by speaking my mind. And it is inevitable that some people who read this will misinterpret, misconstrue, disagree with me, and come to the conclusions that you have come to. That's one risk I take in presenting my life and thoughts in a blog.

I do think Michael Bunker's response above sums up my belief on this subject very well. And to the degree that this dynamic of biblical order in a family functions, that family is more stable and happy. That has been my observation. But more than that, it has been my experience through 29 years (and counting) of a remarkably good and stable marriage relationship.

Best wishes,

Herrick Kimball