The New York Herald reported, on 1 June 1897, that Mark Twain, who was in London covering Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, was ‘grievously ill and possibly dying.’
The next day Twain responded in the New York Journal, which had sent him to London, saying, ‘The report of my death was an exaggeration.’
Sadly, 115 years later, such exaggerations still occur in print.
Not that anyone has claimed, lately, that Mark Twain is dying, although I might have intimated as much in a recent column. But that wouldn’t count, anyway, as no one takes me seriously. As a friend recently observed in passing, ‘The report of Hemphill’s accuracy is an exaggeration.’
But serious reporters get their facts wrong pretty often, and such an event occurred recently concerning a fellow named Ryan Adams, who lives in Pflugerville, for some reason. When you say ‘Pflugerville,’ don’t pronounce the ‘P,’ or you’ll spit on someone. Fair warning.
What happened was, R
yan and his wife were sitting at home one day, watching television, minding their own business, when they heard a ‘loud noise.’ A white-winged dove had flown into the side of their house. Which tells me Ryan and his wife can hear WAY better than I can. I doubt I’d know it if a flock of bald eagles flew into the side of my house, unless one of them managed to come through a window and crash in my lap. Even then I might not find out about it until a commercial.
Anyway, Ryan went outside to see what had caused the thump, and found the dove. It was dead as the proverbial doornail, although that euphemism has always baffled me. Have you ever seen a live doornail?
So Ryan had this dead bird, and he decided to do what I would have done. He cleaned it, washed it, and cooked it on his grill. And then he ate it. Which, so far, is not even close to being news. Well, unless you’re one of those people, like my friend, Greg Berlocher, who posts pictures of his meals on Facebook before he eats them. That always seems strange to me; like he’s doing it for his mom, to prove to her that he’s eating healthy, or something, even though he’s like 55 years old.
Ryan did the next best thing, though. He has a blog (who doesn’t?) and he posted pictures of the whole process on there, and on Reddit, whatever that is. And then, for some reason, instead of ignoring it, the way I ignore Greg, people started commenting on Ryan’s post. I guess they thought it was strange that someone would eat food, maybe.
He even got calls from a few reporters, who wrote stories about Ryan finding this dead bird, and then eating it. All I can say is that it must have been a really slow news day. No one has ever called to interview me about any of the hundreds of birds I’ve eaten. Not that I’m bitter.
Anyway, one of the reporters did to Ryan what the Herald did to Mark in 1897. He wrote in his story that Ryan was being investigated by TPWD. That turned out to be a slight exaggeration, since TPWD had no idea Ryan existed.
Well, they soon found out. Ryan called TPWD headquarters and got hold of my friend, Tom Harvey, who is, incidentally, a fantastic guitar picker. Really. Ryan asked Tom if he was going to end up spending 5 to 10 at Leavenworth, making little ones out of big ones, for eating a game bird without a hunting license. Or words to that effect.
Tom assured Ryan that he had not made the state Top Ten Most Wanted list, or even the Bottom Ten Least Wanted list. Or any list. He did point out that it’s against the law to pick up dead animals from the roadways in Texas, and that birds that fly into houses may be sick or something, but that Ryan wasn’t guilty of Grand Theft, Dove.
Ryan later brought Tom a fruit basket, or some such, as sort of a peace offering for having to ‘deal with the fallout.’ As if Tom hadn’t gotten a kick out of the whole deal. Still, it was a nice gesture.
The good news is that Ryan, who has never hunted before, has decided to start. He’s planning to buy a license this year and hit the woods. He said, “Local game is wonderful. The flavor is fantastic and on top of that, it’s really fresh meat.” Those of us who hunt have known that all along, of course, but hearing it from someone like Ryan may sway others. You never know.
Personally, I’m thinking about field dressing a rabbit or a porcupine or something, and eating it, and posting pictures on my blog. I don’t have a blog, but I might get one, if reporters are going to call and make up stories about it. I might wind up being famous, like Bonnie & Clyde.
So that’s my plan. As soon as I can figure out how to cause a porcupine to run into the side of my house . . .
Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who once ate a dead quail. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or firstname.lastname@example.org