The Meaning of Life

This is written by an outdoorsy-type person, mostly for outdoorsy-type persons, but if you’re not an outdoorsy-type person and shrug it off and turn away, you’re missing some good wisdom.

David E. Petzal is the rifles editor for Field & Stream magazine, where he’s been writing for almost 50 years.  As he says, he’s learned a thing or two.  But it’s not just about outdoorsy-type stuff…it’s about life, and how to treat it right.  So there’s a lot of wisdom here, no matter who you are.

But if you’re a writer, there’s also an example of someone who can write sparsely and roughly, using plain ol’ words, and end up with some very eloquent passages.

It was a treat for me to read, and I hope it enlightens you in one way or another.  Or several.

What Is the Meaning of Life?

David E. Petzal shares the most valuable lessons he’s learned during his lifetime in the outdoors

Illustrations of Old School Hunting
Our rifles editor has learned a thing or two during his life spent outdoors.  Illustrations by Peter oumanski

I’ve been around awhile. When I was born, there were men alive who had fought in the Civil War. I can remember bits and pieces of World War II, and I clearly remember life before television. I bought my first rifle in 1956, began shooting in organized competition in 1958, and got my first hunting license in 1960. After 70-some years of fart­ing around on this planet, mostly out of doors, I can’t exactly tell you the meaning of it all. But as it says in the insurance ad, I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two. Here’s some of it.

1. Hunters, more than other people, are reverential of life because they know far better than others how difficult it is to stay alive, and how ­suddenly life can end.

2. There’s no worse experience than putting down a dog. She would die for you, and now she’s dying because of you.

3. Big-game hunting is the great leveler among men. Either you can climb the mountain or you can’t; either you can shoot or you can’t; ­either you hold up your end or you don’t. Money, education, and social standing have no ­bearing on any of this.

4. Nothing in the outdoors gets your attention like a grizzly paw print with water still oozing into it.

5. According to anthropologists, Neanderthals never built big fires to sit around and swap stories, which is one of the reasons why they vanished and our ancestors did not.

6. The best judges of ­character I have met are African trackers. Their assessments are ­brutal. One hunter with a drinking problem became “Bwana Ginni Bottle.” Of Robert ­Ruark they said, “He has bad legs and much fear.” To ­paraphrase Hamlet: Of all the people in the world, you do not want a bad review from them.

7. The great, unspoken allure of true wilderness, in an era when we are trying to remove all risk from life, is that if you screw up in it, you can die in it.

8. When The Moment comes, your armored, shockproof, waterproof, SEAL-approved $75 butane survival lighter will go click…click…click…click…click…click….

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