ON CRANE LAKE – Here on Minnesota’s border with Ontario, the wind blew Friday morning and the fish bit. Walleyes weren’t jumping into the boat. But in the couple of hours before my brother and I were chased from the lake by wind, rain and lightning, a few specimens landed in the live well, dark-skinned as they are from these tannic waters, speckled with gold.
You want, really, when on these beautiful border lakes to think about not too much. Tricks to catching walleyes, you want to ponder a few of these. Also, your mind might wander to times past when you paddled a canoe on a nearby river or lake, pitched a tent and gathered wood for an evening fire.
Cheap analogy that it is, being in the state’s north country, with its red and white pines and its mysteries aplenty, is like a drug. The more you get, the more you want.
Yet even here the news can suck you in, like a vat of leeches. Donald Trump. Mille Lacs walleyes. Cecil the lion. Iran nukes.
You have to be on your toes to sort this stuff out, because everyone today is perpetually agitated, and you dare not be perceived as less angry than they are about anything. Take it from the talking heads on TV, the nut job on the radio or your blowhard neighbor down the street: Lock and load is the new normal.
Take Cecil the lion.
Save for perhaps a handful of people, no one knows exactly what occurred that night — and it was a night — in Zimbabwe when Walter J. Palmer of Eden Prairie loosed an arrow from his compound bow (not a crossbow) at the lion that turned out to be the aforementioned Cecil.
And, frankly, save for hunters who have found themselves in similar situations and are curious about the details, no one really cares what actually happened.
For the perpetually agitated, facts only muddy the waters.
What is known is that Minnesota archers who hunt in the evening, and who shoot a deer, often don’t pursue that animal until morning, for fear it might be pushed into the distance and never found.
Vis-à-vis Palmer, countless reports have said that he shot his lion at night — which is legal in Zimbabwe and the way most lions are hunted there — and that his party tracked the animal for 40 hours before dispatching it with a gun.
Those countless reports, I am told by someone who knows, are wrong. Instead, as would be the case in Minnesota, the animal was left undisturbed overnight and found sometime the next day. Whether a killing shot was made with a gun or not, I don’t know.
Other than that, we have, so far, only Palmer’s statement that he was unaware that anything untoward about the hunt was transpiring or had transpired.
Palmer says, for example, that he paid a reputable outfitter to coordinate the hunt and that, if in fact, as reports allege, the lion had been baited (again, common and legal in Zimbabwe) onto land outside a national park for which no hunting permit had been acquired, he knew nothing about it.
Perhaps this will prove true, perhaps not.
Regardless, for some people, the fact that the lion was killed outside a national park where otherwise it was safe only adds to the perceived injustice of the hunt.
Unfortunately, left out of this reporting — if perspective is important — is that the “park’’ in question is about one-sixth the size of Minnesota, or roughly the size of the state’s Arrowhead region, from Virginia to International Falls over to Lake Superior.
If things were reversed …
Let’s play an imagination game.
Imagine, for instance, that a similar situation happened in Minnesota, not in Zimbabwe, and that the hunter involved was a Zimbabwean student at the University of Minnesota.
Imagine also that he was befriended by a Minnesota student and that the two of them, at the Minnesotan’s suggestion, decided to go bear hunting near Ely, on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (a type of national park).
Imagine this was a few years ago, when researcher Lynn Rogers still had a half-dozen or more bears — each, like Cecil the lion, with a name — wearing radio-tracking collars.
Now imagine that the Minnesota hunter, either accidentally or intentionally, legally baited one of Rogers’ bears onto private property, where the Minnesota hunter and his guest had no permission to be. Let’s say also that the property owner was a supporter of Rogers’ and regularly online with like-minded thinkers.
The final scenario is this:
The Zimbabwe student shoots one of Rogers’ collared and named bears, and everything hits the fan.
Now, a question: What’s the chance that reporters from Zimbabwe, half a world away, report this story — and the intentions, motivations and agendas of its many characters, Rogers and the landowner included — accurately?
A novel approach
Say this about Palmer: He’s every bit the modern American in his response to the firestorm engulfing him.
Lawyered up, in hiding and surrounded by public-relations professionals, he’s carefully choreographing his every step.
Maybe that’s smart.
But here’s a thought I had Friday morning while trying to fool a walleye or two on the Minnesota-Ontario border:
In this day and age, when perpetual agitation is the new normal, the one opinion that deflates all others is straight-up honesty, plainly said.
This is what happened. This is what I had to do with it, if anything.
Palmer might consider trying that approach. The perpetual agitation hurled toward him might not stop. But soon enough, it’ll find another target.
Of which there are many.
Donald Trump. Mille Lacs walleyes. Iran nukes.
Take your pick.
Then lock and load.