I’m not a hunter.
Oh, in my younger days I gave pheasant hunting a shot.(See what I did there?) But I was really lousy at it and of the few ringnecks I did bring down, most were only wounded which meant I had to wring their neck; a ghastly procedure of spinning the poor creature around in circles like a lariat until they were dead and vomit had formed in my mouth.
My dad, on the other hand, loved to hunt..and not just pheasants and waterfowl.
In his gun cabinet was a lever action 30-30 Winchester rifle he’d bring out whenever his big game hunting buddies would call to go after deer in the Wisconsin woods or Antelope in Western South Dakota.
We have home movies of the big buck the old man bagged on one of those Wisconsin outings. He was so proud that he spent money we probably couldn’t afford to have the head mounted and, I’m sure he planned to display it in the living room of our new house in Volga but that’s the one time I remember mom putting her foot down. No sir. Not by a jug full.” she said.
So, that mangy stag head wound up hanging just inches away from my nose on the wall next to the top bunk in our bedroom which I shared with my two brothers throughout our youth.
Now..I mention this to emphasize that while I don’t understand the joy people get out of hunting…I did love my dad and I do have a lot of good friends and family members who take part in what they consider to be sport. I’ve always been okay with taking game for food but never understood the “thrill of the kill” or making the kill more challenging with more primitive weaponry.
Well, now, the shooting of an African Lion with a bow and arrow by a Minnesota Dentist on paid safari has..thanks to the internet..gotten people around the world in an absolute uproar calling for his head on a platter. Dr. Walt Palmer claims he had no idea that the lion named Cecil had apparently been lured off the national reserve by his guides and he’s really sorry.
But it’s too late for explanations and apologies, of course. People are in the mood for a hangin’.
Here are just a few LOCAL comments I copied from Facebook:
“He’s in MN somewhere. Let’s go torture him.”
“He needs to be hunted like the boss on 9 to 5.
“Everyone that does this for fun, should be hunted “for fun” by us. Bwahahaha”
“He should be mauled to death by cats, just sayin’”
And there are dozens and dozens more..all of which I find disturbing and so should you I would think.
As I said..I am among those who just don’t get guys like Dr. Palmer or Ted Nugent or Teddy Roosevelt for that matter. But to wish them to die in the same manner as the animals they kill is beyond justifiable..and frankly, a bit scary. An old friend and former colleague, Lee Swanson, offered this comment following a string of others openly threatening the dentist: “More than 600 lions are killed by hunters every year. Maybe if they all had names the outrage would be well-placed.”
When my wife and two little girls first moved to Sioux Falls in 1969, about the only entertainment we could afford was to go visit the city parks on Sundays and sometimes head over to West Sioux Hardware to see the amazing collection of exotic animals put on display by the store owner and big game hunter, Henry Brockhouse.
There must have been 150 animals of all sizes from all over the world that Brockhouse had not only paid to kill but to have mounted by some of the best taxidermists in the country.
I have lots of memories from our many visits there. One in particular made me laugh. A guy with his son perched on his shoulders said to his toddler with a noticeable note of sarcasm while viewing the menagerie; “Brian..can you say dead as a door-nail?”
I also remember my own daughters being impressed by the ferocious looking big cats and bears but then asking why did the man have to kill the little deer or the giraffe or the ostrich? I didn’t have an answer other than to suppose Henry was just one of those thrill of the kill fellas who liked trophies.
Everybody was wondering what would become of the Brockhouse collection after he died in the late 70’s but that mystery was solved when it was purchased by his attorney, C.J. Delbridge for three quarters of a million dollars and given to the city on condition it be made part of the Great Plains Zoo and his name be attached.
So that’s how the whole Zoo revamping project began and when things really started to change and grow.
It’s probably safe to say that the Zoo owes much of its success to The Delbridge Museum of Natural History which features the same animals that Ol’ Henry shot on his many safaris years ago.
It’s the first thing you see when you go inside the front door.
I suppose you don’t have to look.
Just head for the door to your left and enjoy those animals that aren’t dead as a door-nail.