I suppose I’ll be asked to prove to someone that I haven’t “lost it” in my old age, but I really don’t mean that title in the way it sounds. I simply like the name: Badger’s Drift. It’s the kind of thing that has always interested me. Words, names, places that appear to paint a brief picture in themselves, and strike a chord in the ear and the head when we hear them. Like “Land’s End”. Both the place and the Corporate name create an instant picture when you hear them, and it stays forever linked to the geographic locale and the Clothing Brand every time it is repeated.
Well, “Badger’s Drift” does that for me. It was the creation of Caroline Graham, who wrote the mystery series about a fictitious county in England called Midsomer (itself a fascinating play on the expected: Mid-Summer). The badger, of course, is quite a common if reclusive creature in England, though not found in NW Pennsylvania, where I live. A “drift” is a common term in England for a slower-moving section of a stream, usually meaning the surface area of the water over a deeper portion of the stream or river. It is where fly fishermen often cast their flies to let them “drift” over the deep pools to lure the fish. And author Graham put the two together to create Badger’s Drift, the fictional community in which more than one of her mysteries take place. I invariably picture a rather ill-mannered, furry creature sitting on the bank of a stream, ready to attack any unsuspecting human who wanders into his territory.
I once had occasion to travel through a real life town called East Fallowfield, in Pennsylvania. It was a small but normal-looking place, which belied the somewhat dismal sounding “Fallowfield”, which would suggest an unplanted, barren field of weeds and ruts waiting for a crop that will never materialize. Badger’s Drift, at least, has a kind of uncommon, almost adventurous appeal to it. But there is also the danger of confusing the appeal of the name with the settings of the stories: The novels have been adapted for television by the BBC, and are aired under the title “Midsomer Murders” . The settings are idyllic, with English manor houses, elaborate thatched-roof cottages, and quaint country inns aplenty.
I suppose the ultimate pictorial name would be J.K.Rowling’s “Hogwarts School” for budding young sorcerers. But saying I came from Hogwarts would simply sound silly, where “I live in Badger’s Drift” sounds bizzare yet plausible enough to actually be true. My own home town of Erie, Pa. may remotely suggest to some a connection with the Great Lake of the same name (which of course it has), but just think of how much better it would sound if we changed the name to Erie Canal, Pa. That immediately provides a boost from the ordinary to the vaguely romantic and adventurous days of the bustling canal traffic. True, the canal never actually passed through Erie, but it came very close, and could lend a tug at the ear and a distant memory of something special.
Well, perhaps not(sigh). But I still wish I lived in Badger’s Drift. Now that’s a name.
I have an opinion about guns, as does, I really believe everyone who will ever read this post. But in order for my opinion to make any sense to anybody I will have to include a rather long and detailed personal history and explanation before I actually state it:
When I was a boy, maybe 12 or 13 years old, several uncles and relatives took pity on me and included me in their annual hunting rituals. I had already proven my abilities in handling guns safely while visiting an uncle who lived in central Pennsylvania. He taught me to shoot, including safe handling of firearms and the loading, cleaning and general maintenance of them. My local uncles, then, imposed on my father to take me to a course of hunting lessons given at a local gun club. I did fine.
I was then included is hunting trips both locally and at a camp owned by one of their number. I was taught to first respect the animal hunted, and to make sure of my target and my ability to make the shot before I ever fired the gun (a shotgun for small game like rabbits and pheasants, and a rifle for larger animals like deer). And I was taught that “respecting the animal” meant first that you never take the shot if you believe you will only injure the creature and not actually kill it, Also, it means that you never shoot what you don’t intend to eat, and that you will use (eat) whatever you kill.
To these people, (men to whom I owe a large debt of gratitude and honor for their efforts in my behalf) the skill of the hunter is the paramount part of the hunt. To make a “clean, accurate, single kill shot” is always the ultimate goal and all in their circle were and are judged solely on their performance of this task.
All of this brings me to my first point. If any hunter (man or woman, using rifle, shotgun, musket or bow) deliberately cripples or maims an animal to slow it down for a later attempt, he is NO SPORTSMAN and has no right to be in the woods injuring animals. There is no question of this, it is simply a fact. And this also means there is no possible justification on earth to take to the woods with an AR-15 or AK47 automatic assault rifle. You make a skilled, clean shot, you do not lay out a curtain of lead to try to bring down your prey. (And I know this discussion may confuse some readers, but any true sportsman or woman knows full well what I mean.)
I should state here that I was assigned to a branch of Naval Intelligence (I’ll wait ’til you stop laughing) and also served briefly as a police officer between semesters in college. I have had very good handgun training, and am especially sensitive to the uses and misuses of handguns. I own a small’ nicely concealable 9mm handgun, and am licensed to carry it.
All of this leads me to where I intended to go in the beginning. After all the years of hunting with my family I gave up hunting some 40 years ago. I did so because I paid attention to the grouping and behavior of small herds of animals and realized that not only do they stay in rather loosely defined familial groups, but I have seen several instances of one animal (usually a deer) actually draw attention away from their group in an apparent attempt to protect it. And also because I lost my taste for wild game as I grew older and refused to kill a creature just to kill it, and give away the meat it provided.
I still own the handgun because there are daily reminders that dangerous people continue to raise havoc in the streets, and at 70 years of age I no longer feel adequate to defending my wife and myself in an emergency. But with all of this said, I would lay down my weapon in a heartbeat if I thought life would be safe without it. I would sell the shotgun and rifle and handgun and leave them to younger, wiser people.
But the dangers are real. This past week a distraught teen shot and killed a 6-year old child on a school playground. There were shots fired in my home town this week. And the next pressure-cooker bomb may be triggered anywhere. So I will retain my guns, praying as always that I am never forced to use one, ever again. I’m not glad of that fact, but I must own it.