Going for the safety of the hedgerow
I had not been in Europe since last May and I spent last week in a hotel in the outskirts of Frankfurt (Germany) while attending the AutoMechanika trade show.
It always surprises and enchants me how many European countries were able to achieve a reasonable balance between brutally urbanized and developed societies and keep a bit of nature, if not preserved, then at least “at hand”, even that close to major urban centers.
German is quite a green country, although most of the place has been heavily used, explored and at times destroyed by human interference for the last several hundred years, but there is an effort to landscape it in a way that makes most people feel at home when wandering through its fields.
That was pretty much the case last week. A couple mornings I went out for “a brisk walk” as recommended by my health coach, and rather than take the way to the city park, I just took “the less traveled path”.
I would start as dawn was breaking, and in a couple minutes I could leave most buildings behind and start to walk a paved trail around some agricultural fields, sugar beets waiting to be picked, wheat already harvested, and the alfalfa growing again for the last cut before winter sets in.
But what really caught my attention were the hedgerows that would shelter the fields and my trail from the frantic highways nearby. If I kept my eyes properly focused I could ignore the Frankfurt skyline and I could just pretend the unending noise of the uncountable trucks and cars could be a distant gathering storm.
It is fantastic the power of a couple meters wide un-mowed hedges. There were berry patches that would keep a black bear happy, if there were any in Germany, but above all was plenty of cover, and as the din morning light started to gain strength I started to see uncountable fluffy rabbits moving around. They were returning from their nocturnal frolics in the fields and getting back to their briar sanctuaries.
I generally could approach them to ten or fifteen yards, and very soon my wild heart started to dream of walking those hedges with a .22 rifle in hand (probably a Winchester Model 67A that I picked at a used gun rack for about US$ 140), loaded either with shorts or some of the new low noise sub-sonic loads, and the goal would be to gather a mess of rabbits for a nice Hasenpfeffer, the typical German rabbit stew, made famous by no other than Bugs Bunny himself (and infamous by some of his less charming sidekicks, Yosemite Sam and Elmer Fudd).
While I can daydream as much as I want, I am not sure how the local authorities would view my rabbit safari, especially due to the fact that I did not undergo the very stringent German hunting education program (see “Becoming a hunter…in Germany”, a post in this blog from February 15th, 2012) and would be carrying an American rifle, rather than a locally made and over-engineered one.
At one point I had to turn back to the hotel (work has a tendency to interfere with the most pleasurable moments in life), and with the morning lights much brighter now I could notice some more details. Bushes and vines were already getting tinted by the gorgeous colors of fall, red being the predominant one.
Also, the big and desirable European hares were still out in the fields, while the shy rabbits had mostly retired or were closer to the edges of the hedgerows. Apparently the hares trust their size and speed to allow them to enjoy the morning sun and are more confident to be able to outsmart or outrun the odd predator than the small bunnies.
Soon after the black crows, a protect “bird of prey”, started to fly around, tacking their murdering intensions elsewhere and completely unaware of me as a potential predator or source of danger of even nuisance.
However, I was happy to see that the beautiful woodpigeons will shy away from a person walking the fields, which indicates that some dedicated hunters still use a good load of number sixes to keep them educated and wild.
To that I must say “Weidmanns Heil” and bid you farewell!