Meridian Star

April 5, 2013

A cult for you?

By Otha Barham
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —

What if someone asked you to join them in a ritual? This ritual is played out only in early spring, say mid-March through early May. It involves getting up at three a.m., skipping breakfast (it's too early for breakfast at three a.m.), and going out into the cold, dark, damp woods to ritualize.

    Now such a request would likely be ignored at this point by the typically sane. But for those attracted to the bizarre,  there is more.

    These ritualizers must dress in the most drab clothing in the house. They cannot build a fire in the woods to stop the shivering, cannot speak to each other except in whispers and must sit perfectly still for hours.

    As the day progresses, the warm air brings out mosquitoes, ticks, chiggers, ants, spiders and flies. These arthropods crawl about on participants looking for places to bite, which they proceed to do with zeal, evident immediately and for days to come.

    The principle reptiles encountered in the practice of this ritual are snakes. Hereabouts, we have members of all commonly known poisonous snake families in the United States; rattlesnakes, copperheads, moccasins and corals. All are coming out of winter hiding in March and they are hungry. Many other snake species also crawl during this time. These are erroneously referred to as "harmless snakes". A misnomer. Every one I ever saw was pretending to be poisonous and caused me to harm either my body or my nerves during my retreat.

    So much for the environment associated with this practice. The activity itself requires carrying a long, heavy gun through the woods in the dark, usually while crouched in sort of a running duck walk. Intermittent sounds are made like different wild predators to incite a wild bird to anger, which brings on audible avian profanity. These responses reveal the bird's location and the ritualist gets to make one of the few physical moves of the day to approach the bird. A stand (actually a "sit") is taken against a big tree and on damp, cold ground. Now our tortured hero begins to woo the bird with sounds of its opposite sex. All these calls are made with various pieces and bits of wood, latex rubber, slate, plastic and bones from ancestors of the quarry. The prized game bird returns the calls over and over again. All the while the ritualizer must not move a muscle, not even to discourage any of the above pests from doing their duty. The extended dialogue continues as the potential victimized bird circles and struts and teases. In the end he tires of the conversation, goes silent and walks away into the forest

    The exhausted participant stands and stretches stiff legs and other numb parts. An attempt is made to find one's way back to a road where someone can assist in finding where the vehicle is parked. If this proves successful, and the ritualist is not forever lost in the forest, the ritual is repeated the next day and the next, over and over until addiction is thoroughly entrenched. The loss of sleep alone often leads to unemployment, illness or divorce.

    If this sounds like fun to you, go along this spring when someone asks you to go turkey hunting with them. If it sounds like the rituals of a cult you would prefer to avoid, then don't go turkey hunting; ever. To heck with you. Just leave us to our miseries.