I would begin by cutting a line from the bottom of the rib cage to the anus. I’m not sure how deep the knife should penetrate so I would be cautious and do it in stages. I probably would have shot the deer. I hope I would be able to hit it cleanly and not miss, or worst of all, hit it so that it broke into the brush and suffered. But it is dead now, even if I dropped out of a tree onto its back with a rock in my hand.
I know that I want to take the bowels out in one complete mess. This assumes that I haven’t shot it in the bowels, in which case, I think all the meat would be ruined. Let’s say that I got that part right. I would clean out all the ‘gut’ organs and then wash out the belly with cold water, loop strong rope around its horns or neck and pull it into the air to drain. At least, that’s what I’ve seen done.
I’d butcher it. Well, I’d take up a knife and … a hatchet (?) and begin … somewhere. I know that the loins provide the best meat. Where exactly do the loins begin?
At home it would be time to build a simple four legged table, one where four reasonably sized human beings could enjoy dinner. I once tried to build a bird house. It looked like one of those fallen-in barns from Montana. I’m afraid that my table would not stand. If I managed to keep it upright, it would not be level. Finally, my poor guests would be ‘splinterfied’ before they retreated from the fiasco of my craftsman efforts.
All four of my brother’s- in-law and two good friends know how to do these things. Hunters and builders, machine savvy – half of them with gardens that give them a good part of their winter meals; most winters they have venison in the freezer. Three have built their homes from scratch and another put together a good part of his. I admire their skills. How much they know how to do on their own!
In Walden Thoreau tells his readers that “our [lives are] frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify, simplify! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand; instead of a million count half a dozen, and keep your accounts on your thumb-nail.”
If one can shoot well, butcher competently, make every day furniture, build a home, grow food that comes full up to harvest, repair engines, as those six men can do, then how much easier to ‘simplify’, to cut the slack from one’s life and live with a sense of practical confidence. Their hands connect to a mind and do its will so that what emerges fills bellies, shelters their families from storms, and gives a good ride. They make for the best neighbors, and not just for their aptitudes. Their confidence gives them a certain grace and easy generosity others may not possess.
The wealthy may inherit the earth, but entombed in their lives of quiet exasperation, they cannot be as happy as the men and women who can do for themselves.