Friday, November 20, 2015

Is it Better to be Lucky or Good?

I love calls on Thursdays.
I'd slept through my first night after working the night shift the previous nine.  I had things I wanted to do but as my body adjusts to the new schedule all I feel like doing is eating the kids' Halloween candy, drinking beer, and napping.

I was about to give in to an noontime nap when the phone rang: gut shot, twenty hours before, large intestine, 75 minutes away.

Perfect!  Suddenly I had a reason to stay out of bed.

The hunter and his party had started to track the deer the night before.  They lost the blood trail and, as it would turn out, that was to their good fortune.

I arrived and the hunter, an employee of his, and a nephew headed out to the stand.  While the hunter had a good idea of where the deer was when he shot it, the blood trail had been obscured by a dusting of morning snow.  Starting at the hit site, I tried to keep Sparta going slow but there was almost no way to confirm she was on the correct track.  Using GPS the hunter was able to tell me we were close but that is all.

The spot of last blood had been marked by a piece of toilet paper.  Did I mention that there had been a dusting of snow?

Still Sparta took to a line and I let her follow it, farther than I would have normally.  At some point I realized the hunting party had veered off in another direction.  It was at this point that I realized that in my excitement to get started, I'd left my phone in the car.

Sometimes you make your own bad luck.  I wasn't worried but I knew at some point I needed to stop Sparta and reconnect with the search party.  I'd have gone farther if I could text the hunter to let him know what I was doing.  It would turn out that it was good luck that I could not contact him.

"If we hadn't started searching for you, we might not have found the deer."

As I was deciding how far to let Sparta lead me on this trail before taking her back and restarting her, the hunting party was feeling the need to reconnect with me.  They'd been searching an area they thought the buck had traveled but left it to head in my direction.

About half-way between where Sparta had taken me and where they had begun their search there was a shout of 'Deer!"  The hunter's hired man found the missing buck.  It had travel ~100 yards from last blood but in a different direction than the party expected.

When he field dressed the deer, it was still warm.  It had been dead just a couple of hours.  In other words, if they'd had a better blood trail the night before they would have bumped him and that trail, potentially, could have grown much, much longer.

After getting the buck back to the truck, a story in itself in those Taylor County low areas, I congratulated the hunter on finding his deer and added something about how maybe they wouldn't have needed the dog after all.  The hunter smiled, "You never know.  We might not have found it if I hadn't decided we needed to find and check on you."

There is a saying that goes, "it is better to be lucky than good."  I guess so far as results are concerned, that much is true.  Still, for my mental health I find focusing on being good, or at least being my best, and ignoring luck the better path.  Doesn't mean I won't embrace Lady Fortune when she smiles on me.

It was an afternoon well spent.  We met some nice people, saw some nice country, and got to be part of a deer recovery and, when the rubber hits the road, that makes for a good day.  I don't forget, however, that Lady Fortune can take away just as capriciously as she gives.

Tadeusz Kuntze: Fortune, oil on canvas:National Museum, Warsaw

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