Thursday, February 16, 2006


Can you call it hunting when a group of millionaires pile into a vehicle, followed by other vehicles carrying Secret Service and medical personnel, and drive along until they spot a covey of quail or anything else they are hunting, then stop the vehicles and the hunters get out to shoot at the prey?

Hunting, to my family, meant going to the woods in inclement weather, sleeping in a tent or a rustic cabin without amenities, getting up to pile on seven layers of clothing, then hiking laboriously through the woods to locate your targets, or sitting on a stump until something happened to come along.

Now I have never hunted with millionaires, but I did take a few trips to the North woods with my father and brothers, where I proved myself to be an encumbrance, falling into streams and sloshing along in sodden boots, hardly able to move or breathe in those layers of clothing, my mind more on getting back to camp and the hot coffee than on the animal I was hunting.

But, in my mind's eye, I can picture Dick Cheney and his hunting trip, if one can call it that. This gathering consisted of wealthy folks, all active in Republican politics, which seems to be another name for Texas these days. They all had hunting licenses, but failed to get some kind of a Stamp, which cost seven bucks and which no one realized they needed, so I guess we can't accuse them of deliberately hunting without a license.

After doing who knows what?....eating, chatting, plotting the next election, praising Diebold, cursing Pat Fitzgerald, raising money for Tom DeLay......this group piled into their vehicles to go hunting. It wasn't explained how they carried their guns. Were those guns propped up in the vehicles? If so, it is a wonder they didn't shoot each other sooner. But perhaps these millionaires have "gun carrriers" like the rich folks on safaris in mid-Africa.

Someone evidently spotted a covey of quail and the hunters piled out of the vehicles, somehow got their guns, and went after their prey. Quail are tiny birds, hardly big enough for a bite, so I have always wondered why anyone bothers. They lurk in the brush and when they go up, it's with a big whooshing sound and they move at a tremendous speed. You can't blame them for that, with the guns pointing at them. And, someone, Alan Simpson, I believe, who is a former Congressman, said something about "dogs pointing at the birds", but I do not know if dogs were there or not. If so, I don't know what vehicle they rode in.

Luckily, you don't shoot at quail with bullets. Instead, you pepper them with little BB-like pellets that spray into the air like gravel behind the wheels of a Semi. Bullets would decimate the tiny quail and render them inedible, unless one likes a bowl of feathers, so the birdshot is used to preserve the tiny morsel of flesh.

I have wondered what they intended to do with the quail after they shot them. Perhaps they serve them, in these millionaire spreads, like pheasant under glass, rows of tiny quails nestled in a pan, stuffed with mushrooms and onions and the like, and covered with a sauce of brandied butter. In my mind's eye, I can see the cook watching the oven closely, red of face and determined to get a golden crust, baking the vice-president's quail, with the nervous maid waiting to place the delicacy on his plate. There is just something macho about hunting down your food, then enjoying it at the table, even though you could afford to buy the best meal money can buy. I can see Dick Cheney munching his quail, a satisfied Big White Hunter expression on his face.

Unfortunately, this hunting party ended tragically. One of Cheney's friends was in the line of fire and was splattered with birdshot. Thus, the medical team following Cheney were a godsend. They were there to handle the Emergency. So were the Secret Service on the job. Reportedly, they refused to allow the local Sheriff to question Cheney, another perk given to millionaires and politicians that we common folk would not enjoy.

In fact, we'd be hauled to the pokey and questioned. We'd be given a test for alcohol and possibly drugs. We'd be asked if we held a grudge against our quarry and made to reenact just what happened. We might even be charged with something, like careless use of a firearm.

This ordeal was spared Cheney and, alas, we shall never know if he had been drinking at this gathering of the Favored Few, although he admits to only one beer enjoyed five hours earlier. After the accident, his friend was taken to the hospital and pronounced stable. Unfortunately, the birdshot didn't seem to be so stable, one or more had penetrated the heart or nearby the heart and caused what was described as a "mild heart attack" in this 78 year old man.

The comedians went amok with this story. Their humor was constant, hilarious and irreverent. How Americans love to ridicule their leaders! And, in Cheney's case, he has always been so dour, so arrogant, so strident, that finding sympathy for him in this dilemma was very difficult.

But, the news of the heart attack halted the tasteless, but funny jokes, as people began to realize that perhaps this incident was serious after all. I'm sure Dick Cheney is sick at heart! I am also sure that when you are elderly, with heart trouble, with slowed reflexes, and less than perfect eyesight...perhaps it is time to give up the sport of hunting and take up something less dangerous to those around you, perhaps a stroll down a country lane with a friend, or a spot of bowling.

The only question left is....why the delay in telling this story? What purpose was there in failing to release news of this accident until a day later? Was Karl Rove consulted on just the right way to mold this news to exonerate Cheney? Were the phone lines between the White House and Texas ringing throughout the midnight hours? You know they were.

I have little compassion for Cheney, because it seems he fails to have compassion for anyone else. Perhaps it's there, buried beneath the gruff, humorless arrogance, but I fail to see it. I DO have compassion for his 78 year old friend, another old duffer who might better hang up the guns. I wish him well, anyway.

As for Cheney, I would advise him to retire to his "undisclosed location" and stay there until the furor dies down. As a matter of fact, it would be nice if he would just retire, period.