• Nelson Sigelman

You Either Get It or You Don't


The latest addition to our hand towel rack pretty much describes hunting season on Martha's Vineyard.

Years ago, driving from Vineyard Haven to Oak Bluffs I picked a guy up who was hitchhiking. It was during the Derby and I’d been fishing hard. My rusty Isuzu Trooper (best over sand vehicle ever) was filled with paper pizza plates and candy bar wrappers.

Fishing rods filled the roof racks.

Hitchhiking requires small talk. The guy noted the rods. I said something about the Derby.

“Oh, you like fishing,” he said. “That must be very relaxing.”

I just laughed — that sort of insane Derby laugh — and said, “Not the way we do it.”

Of course, he didn’t understand. How could he? He may have fished but he wasn’t a Derby fisherman. There’s a distinction.

I think about deer hunting the same way.

During deer hunting season I think about deer hunting. On those occasions when I meet my day-to-day responsibilities I am only marking time. It’s something of an obsession.

Luckily, my wife is very understanding (or she’s just given up). When she asks me to do something it is with the knowledge that I will fit it in around my hunting schedule. Should I actually empty the dishwasher before she gets home she will praise me as though she was talking to a dog she is house training.

The other morning I woke before dawn to get to my deer stand in Chilmark. Despite my best efforts to be quiet I ended up making the microwave beep and knocked my thermos cup into the sink while trying to wipe crumbs off the cutting board.

“Sorry about being so loud,” I said.

“I was already up,” Norma said. She has gotten used to waking up before dawn.

This time of the year we tend not to attend social occasions. I don’t want to be committed to anything — what if I shoot a deer? — and Norma doesn’t want to bring me around other people.

If those other people are hunters then we will only talk about hunting (let others talk about impeachment).

If the other people are not hunters … well, it’s not always a pretty picture. Hunting is one of those topics fraught with political and cultural peril. Once, at a Chilmark dinner party, Norma rose from her seat, walked over to me, and put her hand over my mouth as I was just warming to a description of the finer aspects of shooting deer. I admit, I was laying it on a bit thick. Norma to the rescue. The truth is that when I get talking about the derby or hunting, my enthusiasm for the topic often gets the better of me. Politics? Nah. The derby? Shooting deer? Roll out the anecdotes. Often, during the usual party postmortem on the ride home, Norma will tell me that I talked too long about fishing or hunting. "Couldn't you see that they weren't interested?" Norma asks.

"Yes," I say, "but I couldn't help myself."

The other day, I stopped at the house of my friend Tom Robinson. When he learned it was my birthday he went upstairs and returned with a towel he bought for me last year as a Christmas present but forgot to give to me.

The towel pretty much sums up the past eight weeks (and counting): “We interrupt this marriage to bring you deer season.”

If you don’t get it, I can’t explain it. You’re either not a deer hunter or not married to one.

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