I recently took a survey of women who love to hunt or fish. Several of the questions asked about the reactions of men and the challenges of being a woman in the outdoors. One of the questions asked if I felt that women are naturally better at a certain aspect of hunting and/or fishing than men. And if so, what? This was the hardest question on the test. I am very helpful in camp or on a hunting trip but, above all, my tolerance is the highest. It seems as though the men I have hunted with constantly ask for my assistance and then cannot tolerate it. On the other hand, I am always being offered assistance and tolerate it very well.
Last season on a caribou hunt, my hunting partner and I were field dressing a caribou. I had not field dressed a caribou before so my role was as student observer. “Will you at least hold the leg,” my partner asked. Sure, I thought. That’s the least I could do. As I held the leg and watched the proceedings, my mind began to wander until the leg thwacked my partner in the head. He gave me an intolerant look that seemed to conclude that I could not at least hold the leg. “Ooops,” I said. The second time the leg thwacked him, his eye twitched. “Maybe you could put the hamburger meat in that game bag over there.” When I let go of the leg and it thwacked him a third time, he seemed to have lost all tolerance for my help.
Another time I was called upon for help it was to make sure the trailer lights were working properly. I was to stand at the back and answer a series of questions. It felt a bit like an intelligence test, and I wanted to be sure to pass. “The left tail light should be blinking,” he called out. “Yes,” I said. He seemed pleased by my answer. “Now the right tail light should be blinking,” he said. “Yes,” I said. He got out of the truck and announced that it was a miracle they worked. I said, “Well they didn’t work.” He said, “What?” I said, “You said the left tail light should be blinking, and it wasn’t.” He said, “Why did you say yes, then?” Apparently, I had over-focused on the word “should.” “Let’s try again,” I said. But, he preferred that I find a safe place to hide while he chained himself to a tree in the back yard.
Sometimes I am asked to go retrieve a specific item that either a) is being called by a name I am not familiar with b) is not in the place it is said to be or c) has been mis-identified. In some cases, all three possibilities occur at once. My partner often refers to items as the “thingamajig” or another less-appropriate, all-encompassing title. He believes that the actual name of an item is not necessary in groups of equal intelligence and experience. In fact, a thingamajig can be used twice in the same sentence. For instance, “Can you get me the thingamajig out of the thingamajig?” The more stressful the situation, the more vague the nouns. If he is attempting to start a fire and asks for me to get the thingamajig and I come back with a wrench, he doesn’t think it’s funny.
I cannot recall ever personally asking for anyone to retrieve a thingamajig in my life. I am either very proficient at already having my thingamajigs in order or never forget the correct name for my items. I’m not sure which. But, I think if there were ever a situation where I was in need of a thingamajig and someone brought me the wrong thingamajig, I would be very compassionate and understanding. And if someone let an animal’s thingamajig thwack me in the head a couple times, I’d probably just say, “You know, all those stories about how I’ve done this myself a hundred times and loved every minute of it. Those are completely true.”