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Outdoors Outpost
Vigil-ante
Wednesday, January 16, 2013 • Posted January 20, 2013

Ulanda Williams, a 6 foot 5 inch, 400-pound woman who lives in Queens, New York, fell through a wooden sidewalk the other day, according to a Fox News story sent to me by an anonymous alert reader. She had been standing on the sidewalk for about ten seconds when it gave out and dropped her into a vault cellar, whatever that is.

Upon her discharge from New York Presbyterian Hospital, Ms. Williams was quoted as saying, “Thank God, they said that my size was the only thing that saved me.” A thinner woman, the article said, might have died from the fall.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and speculate that, had Ms. Williams weighed, say, half what she does, the sidewalk might not have succumbed to begin with. Of course, I could be wrong, but I only mention this story to demonstrate the differences between the way I think and, for example, the way someone who lives in New York thinks. Or Boulder, Colorado.

My friend, John Gammill, sent me a Fox News story (no, John didn’t send the other one) entitled ‘Hundreds attend vigil for elk killed by police in Colorado.’ This story was not a joke, as I first thought. The folks in Boulder, bless their hearts, were evidently overwhelmed with grief after losing this elk, and decided to honor it with, according to the article, ‘a makeshift memorial of candles, songs, and stories.’

You might think, with that kind of sendoff, the elk had been a town pet, or mascot, or something. No. It was just a wild elk that wandered into the neighborhood. Someone evidently called the police, maybe thinking the elk was up to No Good, perhaps planning to break into someone home and steal their roughage or something. An officer came and shot the elk, killing it.

The officer later said the elk looked injured before he shot it, but the story doesn’t elaborate on that. It does say that another officer, who had called in sick that day, came and hauled off the elk for processing. This second officer also has a website advertising taxidermy services, although I don’t, personally, think that information is relevant.

Both officers have been placed on leave, but the article didn’t say why. It also didn’t say why the officer shot the elk. Maybe it made threatening gestures at the officer. Maybe he just wanted to see if he could kill it with his service pistol. Maybe someone dared him. We just don’t know.

To me it sounds like the officer saw an opportunity to get some elk steaks, and offered to split the meat with his buddy, the taxidermist/cop, for doing the heavy lifting, even though he was playing hooky from work.

Whatever the reasoning, I’d have to say it was probably a Bad Idea to shoot an elk in a populated neighborhood if it wasn’t a danger to anyone. And let’s face it, it’s about as rare to see an elk on a Colorado street as it is to see a deer on an Austin golf course. It’s not like they go around in gangs, or something, and terrorize the locals. They’re pretty harmless, generally.

So the neighborhood folks decided to hold a vigil for this elk. Which is kind of touching, if you can get past the bizarre aspect. Of course, the vigil was probably more of a protest against the cop for going off full cocked than a gesture of love for the deceased wapiti.

Honestly, although I can’t say I approve of vigils for elk, I have to agree with these folks. I don’t live where large wildlife shows up on my street uninvited, but if I did, I don’t think I’d want the police coming around and blasting away at it. It seems dangerous. The cop might have missed the elk and hit someone’s Jeep, or something.

But the problem I see with the elk vigil is that it sets a precedent that may be difficult to emulate, if the folks in Boulder intend to be productive members of society in the future. It is legal, after all, to kill elk in Colorado. At least it was the last time I checked.

I’m thinking if they held a vigil for this elk, it would be rude not to hold one for the next elk killed there. And the next. And so on. Once elk season opens up next fall, the residents of Boulder are liable not to have much time for work or anything else, if they try to honor every elk gunned down in their area of the Centennial State. Elk vigils are likely to become a full time job.

The article didn’t mention how big the elk in question was, but I’d imagine it was pretty good sized, which might have been its downfall. Contrary to Ms. Williams’ situation in New York, a thinner elk might not have gotten shot . . .

Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who has never, to date, fallen through a sidewalk. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or jeep@verizon.net

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