I have long believed that the most non-Jewish avocation an individual can pursue in this life is hunting. My friend Jesse Ventura, the former governor of Minnesota, pretty well covered the moral aspects of the issue. “All hunters are cowards,” he said, “because they shoot at things that can’t shoot back.” Unfortunately, he was still running for governor when he made this statement and thus received a shitstorm of negative response. I shudder to think about what would’ve happened to him if he’d opined on the subject while running for governor of Texas. Nevertheless, if you call yourself a believer in the Ten Commandments, it’s hard to quibble with Jesse’s sentiments.
A Jewish hunter is both a shonde and a joke. Joseph Heller wrote of a long-ago Jewish kingdom in which golf, Republicans, and divorce were practically unheard of. A Jewish hunter would’ve been as oxymoronic as a Catholic university. Today hunting remains a non-Jewish exclusive club for the spiritually unwashed.
I should probably mention the two Jewish dentists who are friends of mine. In fact, they are my only friends. The Jewish dentist in Texas is a big-game hunter and does not realize that the bigger the game, the more corrupt is the soul of the hunter. (He also does not realize that he is Jewish.) The other dentist, Stan Golden, lives in California, and is not only my friend but also Bob Dylan’s dentist. In a field of endeavor that leads all other occupations in suicides, I must report that, at this writing, they both appear to be happier than I am.
Be that as it may, most Jews seem to avoid hunting almost as much as family reunions. Why is this? Well, for one thing, after 40 years in the desert Jews feel uncomfortable in the great out-of-doors. For another, Jews have always been the people of the book, while guns have always been a John Wayne kind of thing. To quote my shrink, Willie Nelson, (who is a Jew by inspiration and not a particular fan of John Wayne or hunting), “John Wayne should’ve apologized for killing so many Indians. He couldn’t sing and his horse was never smart.” In all the time I’ve known Willie, the only thing he’s ever hunted was a missing joint.
Why is it that hunting seems to have such a lingering, goyish stigma when divorce, Republicanism, and golf have become routine aspects of the Jewish community?
The first time I ever went hunting was in the black-and-white world of the early ’50s. Doctors drove Buicks; coffee with a friend was still a dime; I was 7 years old—old enough to realize, and young enough to know that what I was doing was not right. As my father would say, it wasn’t even wrong. I remember that night vividly because it was not only the first time I ever went hunting; it was also the last.
Our neighbor Cabbie drove us in his jeep to the killing ground. The hunting party consisted of me, my 4-year-old brother, Roger, and Cabbie’s old hunting dog, Rip. If Cerberus, the three-headed dog who guarded the gates of hell, had only one head, it would’ve looked like Rip’s.
Rip’s eye’s flashed. A deep, dangerous growl emanated from somewhere in his hunting-dog heart. It was at this point that Roger suggested I kiss Rip on the nose.
If you’re an intuitive person you already know what happened next. I kissed the dog on the nose, he bit the living shit out of me, and I learned a life-long lesson: Never take advice from anyone younger than yourself.
Hunting has got to be the most brutal, boring, indubitably non-Jewish pastime on the planet. If Jackie Mason were God, no Jew would be allowed to go hunting or have a boat. But Jackie will probably become God about the same time that Bernie becomes president, and Bernie represents the very hunting-crazy state of Vermont. Bernie’s views on the goyishness of hunting are not known to me, but, if by some act of God, he’s ever elected president, it’ll be the first time in history that a Jewish family ever moved into a place a black family moved out of.
So why is it that hunting seems to have such a lingering, goyish stigma when divorce, Republicanism, and golf have become routine aspects of the Jewish community? (Personally, I find golf to be stultifying dull; the only two good balls I ever hit was when I stepped on the garden rake.) I think hunting is for the goyim because somewhere deep down in the Jewish soul is a still, small voice that reminds us that at any whim of God’s the roles could be reversed. In our hearts we know we should be listening to the wisdom of Charles Bukowski—run with the hunted.
Oh, yes. We killed two ringtails that night under the cowboy stars. Ringtails are considered varmints in Texas, as they kill birds, chickens, little baby ducks, and any other hapless creature that wanders into their murderous path. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, each man and each ringtail kills the thing he loves. Or sometimes we kill just for the hell of it.
So if you’re a Jew and you feel a sudden urge to go hunting—perhaps to demonstrate to yourself what a wonderfully assimilated American asshole you’ve become—why go halfway? I understand Dick Cheney’s still looking for a good hunting partner.
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Kinky Friedman is a singer, songwriter, novelist, humorist, politician, and former columnist for Texas Monthly.