John Harrigan -- Powder, patch and ball: The muzzle-stuffer's mantra

JOHN HARRIGAN November 02. 2013 6:55PM

Yesterday was the opening day of muzzle-loader season. For the uninitiated, this means powder, patch and ball rammed down a rifle muzzle with, naturally, a ramrod, although these days there are various means to make this faster and easier. But, it still means making darn sure that you and your firearm are ready to make the first shot count because you're not likely to get a second one.

There was a howling wind the night before the start of the season, and I wondered about slinking out in the morning. This year, for the first time, I've nailed a blind to the ground in Ancestors' Field where my parents' and brother's ashes have gone to earth and grass and who knows what creature, and where mine will, too.

My father's brother, Uncle Carl, the last of the Old Guard generation, a World War II vet, once watched me mow this field for hay, the belly-mounted sickle-bar mower making a nice snick as my '42 Ford tractor moved along at dusk, felling sweet grass. I'll always have that picture in mind, Carl sitting on the truck tailgate, watching and listening as the swaths fell, and the even neater thing is that we're both still here to talk about it.

My son Mike shot a hefty buck in this field, one of a pair of fawns I'd watched grow up. When I heard about it, and the little addendum relayed almost as an afterthought that it had fallen down into a gully, I lingered at the home of friends in Stratford Hollow to avoid having to help drag it out. Mike, I figured, had plenty of friends.

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The meat from my moose back in 1988 didn't last as long as I thought it would, and the meat from Mike's deer disappeared even quicker. It was fine meat, even finer because of where it came from.

More hunters, I think, should realize and talk about being part of the "locavore" movement, which is essentially to promote and use the most locally grown and produced food possible.

This is a great movement, an attempt not only to support local food producers, but also to familiarize people with where their food comes from - ultimately the soil, and the closer the customer to the soil and the source, the better.

"Locavore" is no trendy catchword. It is here to stay.

The historian in me can't help pointing out that it's a giant leap backward in time, back to a time when things to eat were marketed close to home because society had neither refrigerated trucks nor the fuel or the infrastructure to send or obtain the far-flung foodstuffs of life.

Game is not for sale, but when you serve it up at a table surrounded by family and friends, it's "locavore" at its absolute best.

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I'd rather bird hunt than hunt deer, partly because there's more action and particularly because two or three partridges are a whole lot easier to drag out than a deer.

It's not that I'm getting old, nosiree bub. But the only deer I shoot this year, if I get one, will be right there in Ancestors' Field, just up the road, where I can go get it with the tractor.

John Harrigan's address: Box 39, Colebrook, NH 03576, or

John Harrigan

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