Be careful what you wish for

Published 9:52 am Saturday, January 21, 2012

When I was about 10 years old, I remember thinking that cutting the grass looked like a lot of fun.

The thought of pulling on the starter and cranking up that loud old lawn mower, pushing it around the yard for an hour or so, and chopping up pine cones and rotten apples and shooting all that stuff out the side of the mower just seemed really appealing for some reason. But once I got my big chance, it didn’t take long for me to realize that cutting the grass wasn’t all that great.

There are lots of folks, myself included, who follow politics and government and think to themselves that they could do a better job. Some are even crazy enough to run for office, and, in the case of an unfortunate few, get elected.

And once on the inside, much like when I found out what it was like to cut the grass every week in the dead of the summer heat, many elected officials quickly learn that the job isn’t all that it was cracked up to be.

For the newly elected board of supervisors in Southampton County, that realization is probably going to start on Monday night when at least one resident plans on requesting that they take up the issue of muzzleloader hunting.

For the record, and for probably the first time in my entire life, I have absolutely no intention of sharing my opinion on this issue, and there are a couple of reasons for that.

First of all, I’m not what you’d call an avid hunter. I do like to go out into the woods a few times a year, and I’ve even managed to shoot a couple of embarrassingly small bucks in my day.

But since I started taking my 7-year-old son with me, we tend to engage in a lot more bird watching than deer hunting. As some of you that have hunted with a boy that age can attest to, it’s a lot like it would be if you were trying to lead a marching band through the woods without scaring away the deer.

If at the end of the day we’ve managed to see so much as a squirrel, I consider it a success. So for me, it probably wouldn’t matter if we had a bazooka season in Southampton County because when Whitman and I get on a deer stand together, it doesn’t take long before every deer on the East Coast knows exactly where we are.

The second reason I won’t be sharing my opinion on black powder hunting is that I’m really not sure what my opinion is. I’ll probably have to scoop my wife up off the floor when she reads this because as she’ll readily tell you, she’s never known me to not have an opinion on something.

But in this case it’s true, and I think it’s because I understand and agree with both sides of the debate. It’s hard to think of many issues more important and central to what it means to be an American citizen than landowner rights, and it’s an issue I take seriously as a landowner myself.

But I also understand that what makes Southampton County such a great place to hunt is the size of some of the deer that are harvested here each year. Many of the avid hunters in our community want to continue to enjoy hunting the same way that they have been in Southampton County for generations.

So I can honestly tell you that if I were in a position to have to decide one way or the other, I don’t know what I’d do.

But one thing’s for sure, and that’s the fact that this debate is going to be as contentious as any we’ve seen in Southampton County in a long time. And I’m kind of glad it’s not up to me to have to decide which way to go.

I get to turn a key and ride around my yard to cut the grass now, which is significantly better than yanking on the starter and pushing that old piece of junk around like I had to do when I was a kid. But when it’s a 100 degrees outside and I’ve got five acres to go, there are still times I think back to how badly I wanted the job at 10 years old and wonder what I could have been thinking.

I imagine that, come Monday night, there are a few new members on the board of supervisors who are about to learn for themselves that cutting the grass isn’t all it was cracked up to be.

TONY CLARK is the general manager and advertising director at The Tidewater News. He can be reached at