FIELD NOTES: DEAD OF WINTER – February 2018

By Jack McShane

Now that it is what many of us call the dead of winter, the holidays are over and our bears, woodchucks and others are hibernating or in a sound sleep, hopefully surviving the very deep freeze. And many of our avian friends have fled to the Deep South and beyond. So, I will now dwell briefly on another matter of my interest. The following is an incident in my past, one that has kept me in occasional deep thought over the decades. It is still like it happened yesterday.

DILEMMA FROM THE PAST

What follows is an incident that occurred back in the sixties when I was a young police officer assigned to the Upper West Side of Manhattan. At that time it was a place rampant with crime, drugs, robberies, illicit guns and prostitution. An event that still haunts me is when I arrested a notorious pimp after he seriously assaulted one of his “girls.” I was called to the scene of the assault which had taken place inside his limousine; both he and the young girl were now on the street with a crowd gathering. She had been hit on the head, was now in tears, showing a bad bruise on her forehead, with the pimp trying to drag her back inside the limo. I held him back and told him that I was arresting him; she stated that he in fact did hit her, but that she would not press charges and begged me to please let him go. She was very young, frightened and traumatized. I took him, heavily resisting, into custody as the young girl got back into the limo and was driven off by the pimp’s driver. At the station house I required the assistance of two of my fellow officers to do the required fingerprinting, as the individual was fighting back in a very aggressive way. I found out later that he was infamous for his very rough behavior, especially with his “girls.” At court the case was dismissed, as there was no complainant, only myself, testifying as to my observations at the scene – not deemed sufficient. The pimp continued his operation, but with one young girl missing. What happened to her? We never knew, but to this day I believe the worst.

Now thinking back, I did what was “just,” in that a crime was obviously committed and an arrest was made, but was it “right” considering the horrendous consequences most likely meted out to that young girl? What got me considering this was a presentation at the (now gone) Andes Roundtable, by our own Stanley Fish. It was a fascinating and enlightening talk about the difference between that which might be “just,” that is according to the law, but not “right” from an ethical, moral or best-outcome standpoint. I feel the above incident exemplifies very well the point Stanley was making. I did send this story to the writer of “The Ethicist” column in the magazine section of the Sunday edition of the New York Times and am losing hope for a response with his view. Anybody out there with strong thoughts on this, I would be very happy to hear from you.

BACK TO FIELD NOTES

And now the reason why most of you read this column—my observations and comments about our natural world:

The local flock of turkeys which number twelve—a small number considering previous years—march down the snowy hillside in single file, rapidly, like marching soldiers with laggards in the rear struggling to keep up. They arrive at the ground below the birdfeeder, this time to find that the bluejays, their cohorts, and red squirrels, have cleaned up all the fallen seed. Obviously disappointed, if not very disgruntled, they scratch in vain, look up in wonder at the unreachable canister holding what they crave, black oil sunflower seeds and cracked corn. Then they slowly wander off looking very forlorn, as this is one of those days when there is no manna from heaven.

On a cold clear morning I heard a very loud bang that sounded much like a bird-window-hit. It was. It turned out to be a beautiful male ruffed grouse lying dead with a broken neck. Oh (expletive)! My emotionally disturbed grouse or EDG was dead. Should I bring him to the taxidermist and have him mounted? No, as I have a road-killed grouse there already awaiting completion. OK, he is not going to waste. I told Nancy that we will have him for dinner that evening, as fresh partridge is considered gourmet by many. Reply: No way, we will not eat your friend! I wasn’t too excited about it either, but went about the gutting and skinning process anyway. It made it a lot easier, especially for Nancy, when late in the day, up at the place I usually meet my little feathered friend, I made a few desperate whistles and to my surprise and delight, my EDG came running up looking for his handout, which I happily gave him. One of his counterpart,who had suffered a very bad day, became the focal point that evening of a gourmet meal prepared by Nancy with no qualms. Very little goes to waste in this household.~