Ancient History

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Last night, we watched Bambi for the first time as a family. The older kids saw it years ago and remembered the most important scenes. The rest of the kids were new to the story of the Young Prince and his adventures growing up as heir to the woodsy throne.

I don’t think this is a spoiler for anyone over the age of 12. Bambi’s mom is shot and killed by MAN. The same malevolent forest-decimater is responsible for the death of a hyperventilating and foolish quail. Bam! Bam! Bam! I hadn’t remembered all the gunfire. MAN shot at everything that moved. No animal or bird was safe. Bluebird? Bam! Chipmunk? Bam! Bunny? Bam! Mommies! Daddies! Babies! Bambambambambambambi gets shot, too.

And then, the lush forest home is nearly wiped out by a fire, started by MAN‘s campfire. I couldn’t tell what was cooking in the cast iron pot, but I’ll assume it’s the hearts of baby quails in a broth of bunny tears.

The kids watched all of the perilous sequences with little comment. I wonder what they think of the portrayal of hunters? Clearly, the values, ethics, and practices of hunting are judged in Bambi. Otherwise, the bambambambam depiction of thoughtless blasting wouldn’t have been represented to the point of hyperbole.

I grew up in western Colorado in a hunting/fishing family. Every fall, my dad would go hunting for deer and elk with my grandpa. One year, I walked into my grandparent’s garage and saw a dead deer hanging from the rafters. I touched it. They had the deer processed and ate it’s meat. I guarantee the meat wasn’t loaded with hormones or antibiotics. Its life was as free range as it gets.

My dad built guns with kits. He cleaned them. We had a rack of rifles above our fireplace. He had a gun rack in his ’67 Dodge pickup. He took me shooting. I’ve held a rifle up to my shoulder and pulled the trigger. It was aimed at empty metal food cans. Not deer. Not bluebirds. Above all else, my dad stressed safety. You never point a gun at a person, ever. You never assume a gun isn’t loaded, ever.

I am grateful I learned about guns. I can approach them from a place of education, not fear. They aren’t a mystery to me. They aren’t the tool of choice for drooling inbred hillbilly oafs in flyover country. The same men who hugged me when I hurt myself, carved the turkey at Thanksgiving, and taught me how to ride a bike and drive could be found wearing blaze orange when the leaves would fall. They hunted. It was honorable.

Maybe MAN as represented in Bambi exists, but I never saw him.

My kids haven’t grown up with the same exposure to hunting and fishing. To them, meat comes from the grocery store on styrofoam trays. They are removed from the process. They know it’s cow, pig, chicken, but I suspect most kids don’t really think about cow, pig, chicken as wild creatures in pristine forests or wide-open plains. They are hidden away. They may as well be cartoons. At best, they are in fields we drive by.

“Hi, cows!” little ones shout from the backseat.

My father hasn’t been hunting for years. My grandpa died in 1991. That way of life is fading away, quickly. Movies like Bambi may have worked in a small way to hasten the death of feeding hungry people through hunting. Now, animals are lined up. Their lives end using other methods.

The result is the same.

But will there be an animated movie?

6 comments to Bam-bi-no

  • I have seen careless hunters, but by far, they are outweighed by the scores of careful, responsible, respectful hunters I have known and still known. Everyone in my family hunts except myself, and I only don’t because I am a terrible, terrible shot. But I know that I am a terrible shot because my dad took my sister and me target shooting as soon as we were old enough to handle guns, and instilled the safety rules into us. Hunting is, in many ways, a more humane way to end an animal’s life. It is certainly kinder than being run over by a car, or starving to death through the winter (either of which is the way most deer in my hometown meet their end). And I think, oddly, one has more respect for an animal’s life if one knows what it means to go from “deer” to “venison.” People who think of hunters as having no respect for animal life are usually far off track.

    Most of the time, it’s the other way around, and those who hunt respect the animal’s life more than those who don’t put any thought into exactly how that hamburger on their plate got there.

  • amy

    No movie because the feed lots and slaughterhouses have made it illegal to film or photography their industry. Rob hunts. I’m glad our kids know this. When I told their pediatrician that we had a gun in the house, she gave me a horrified look. I explained that Rob hunts, that the gun is kept with the bolt removed, unloaded. She said “hmm, ok then, I’m just going to put “no.”” ha!

  • My childhood was very similar to yours in certain respects. I grew up on a farm, and the butchering process was never far removed from us. My dad and uncles hunted deer (and still do), and our family of 6 welcomed the venison. Personally, my little family here doesn’t hunt (not because I believe it is wrong, but just because we don’t live that lifestyle now), and Claire is experiencing a childhood that is far removed from my own. It’s interesting for me to see how we navigate these differences.

    P.S. If you do make stew with bunny tears, be sure to add potatoes. They’ll help counteract some of the saltiness. 😉

  • Jessica

    Have you seen the movie Food Inc.? It is a very good documentary about the food we eat and how it gets to the little styrofoam plates at the grocery store. Your story reminds me of the man in the documentary who butchered his free-range chickens outside on his property and was almost shut-down by inspectors. He had such respect for the animals and for the people he was providing very healthy meat to!

  • Joy

    Aren’t the “hunters” in Bambi actually poachers?

  • Gretchen von Lifenut

    Joy, that’s a good point. I believe that Bambi’s mother was shot by a poacher because it was spring when she was killed. Deer hunting season is in the fall. Poaching is NEVER moral.

    I believe the first time the animals are shot upon, it is fall and therefore hunting season. I might have to watch it again. But I don’t want to.

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