…some part of my brain goes haywire because I cannot hibernate for the next ninety days as so many North Country species do. There is probably some medical term for this phenomenon… …like “emotional compensation for seasonal affective disorder caused by winter isolation and sunlight deprivation.”
Winter acquisitive syndrome
The doldrums of January tempt me to commit the sin of covetousness. Like all minions of this consumer society, I have been conditioned to believe that my winter depression will be cured by buying a new toy.
Gloomy and dejected on this snowy day when the hunting seasons are over, the thermometer on the deck reads five below zero, one of the dogs has chewed to rags the new wool socks I got for Christmas, and the bathroom scales indicate I have added seven pounds during the Thanksgiving-through-New-Year eating binge, I can’t decide whether to commit suicide or go bowling. The sun rises at 7:40 a.m. and sets at 4:45 p.m. and the other fifteen hours of the day are spent huddling in the dark by the woodstove drinking endless cups of tea and reading articles in AARP magazine about arthritis and incontinence.
Desperate to escape the winter blues, I open my computer, go online, and search for an affordable trip to Southwest states. This is not an uplifting pastime. For one thing, I worked three years in southwest Texas (actually, one thousand one hundred nine days and seventeen hours), and I left with no desire to return. Ever.
Winter fugitives from the North Country refer to the Southwest as The Sunbelt. I call it The Thirstbelt. It is mostly desert. If the gods had meant for me to winter there they would have provided water as well as warmth and sunshine. January through March can be harsh and nasty up North, but the desert Southwest is harsh and nasty January through December. The only green places are golf courses, and I do not play golf. I hate golf.
Also, I am a cantankerous vacationer, and finding places that will welcome a grumpy guest who travels with two large and flatulent bird dogs is a challenge.
Having failed to brighten my spirits with a computer search for snowbird opportunities, I drift away to other websites and – what’s this!? A nearby gun shop has listed a bargain price for a Browning X-Bolt Hunter rifle in 7mm-08 caliber. Excellent anti-depressant medicine!
Dreaming of this perfect rifle, I can see myself mounted on a handsome roan horse, heading up into the Rocky Mountains some chilly October morning on a mission to find, stalk and shoot a record 12-point mule deer buck. Just like the ruggedly handsome character in the Browning advertisement. Him and me, partner, we’re cut from the same leather – except he may be thirty years younger, in considerably better physical condition, experienced in the ways of mountain hunting, and not prone to collapse from altitude sickness.
No matter, I will become him and enter that mythical world of hunting mulies in the Western wilderness if, and only if, I can acquire that Browning bolt-action rifle.
Looking upon the south wall of my clubhouse where the mount of the trophy deer head will someday hang, I realize how much I need this rifle. Optimism, esteem, and a new outlook on life can all be mine for less than $900 – plus some loose change for a few accessories: scope, sling, hard case, scabbard, reloading dies, 7mm bullets, brass cases, a selection of smokeless powders… Maybe $1,700 or $1,800 max. Plus the four or five thousand bucks for the outfitter to guide my hunting trip into the Bob Marshall Wilderness, of course.
But that will take care of itself. Once I have this rifle in hand, this magic wand, I will be somebody, go places, do things. People will point at me and whisper in hushed, reverent tones, “That’s him, the famous hunter and outdoor writer.”
Admittedly, this plan fell short of the mark when I bought the Marlin 336 lever-action rifle for the fantasized Minnesota deer hunt five years ago. And the Remington 700 varmint rifle for the prairie dog shoot in 2012. And the Ruger Red Label shotgun in the winter of 1998 that was going to be the ticket to championships in sporting clays tournaments.
But there is some truth to the happiness-through-acquisition tenet of capitalism. Buying something bright and shiny and new releases a flood of endorphins from our brain, a chemical high that is positively stratospheric compared to the low to which we have descended following the mid-winter holiday season.
Maybe some part of my brain goes haywire because I cannot hibernate for the next ninety days as so many North Country species do. There is probably some medical term for this phenomenon. My wife calls it “temporary insanity,” but I was hoping for a more flossy-sounding name like “emotional compensation for seasonal affective disorder caused by winter isolation and sunlight deprivation.”
She’s probably right, though; mild insanity with a touch of childish petulance is a better description of these flights out of the world of reality. I’m calling it “winter acquisitive syndrome temporary episodes of dementia” – WASTED, for short.
Who needs another rifle anyway? How impractical. What a waste of money.
But a longbow? A traditional yew wood longbow? This would open a whole new world of bow hunting for me. If I had one I would be so happy. So very happy.
More stories about hunting adventures and hunting rifles are published in my collection of essays, Crazy Old Coot, and my novel, Hunting Birds. Both are available in Kindle and paperback editions at Amazon.com.