The old song informs us that Davy Crocket killt him a bar when he was only three. When I was a child, we kids at the Christian school thought it very daring to reinterpret the phrase as "killt in a bar when he was only three."
Richard Ahlstrand, of Auburn, Massachusetts, killt him a bar the other day, and the police aren't happy about it.
Mr. Ahlstrand, age 76, was stocking his bird feeders when he heard a noise. He went back inside and got a shotgun and returned, to find himself suddenly charged by a black bear. Goodbye, black bear. One might think this would be a cause for rejoicing, as Mr. Ahlstrand is, you know, a human being, and hence of more value than many sparrows, much less black bears, but not so. He's being charged with illegally killing a bear, illegally baiting a bear, and failure to secure a firearm.
Evidently keeping a large gallon of birdseed outside on one's property for refilling the bird feeders is "baiting a bear," according to the police. One wonders what holding a picnic in one's back yard would be, on that reasoning.
The police imply that they are charging Ahlstrand because he heard a noise and, instead of curling up in terror inside his house, he actually went back out and got on with his life, pausing only to arm himself first. Yes, that's that old American spirit. Hear a creak in the woods near your house? Don't go back out, and above all, don't prepare to defend yourself. Call the police instead. Which means that if you live somewhere where there are animals making noises in the woods, you pretty much have to live indoors all the time and give up the use of your outside property. Oh, and also not keep bird seed or refill the feeders. I guess the birds will just have to be disappointed. Let the bears take over the yard.
One of my favorite quotes is the statement by police that the bear wasn't a threat to people. This is epistemically arrogant in the extreme, as it ignores eyewitness testimony to the contrary. Is Mr. Ahlstrand's testimony irrelevant? What do they have that allows them legally to set his testimony aside like that? Perhaps they interviewed a few bears who gave a character reference for the one who just...wandered into Ahlstrand's back yard. "She was the sweetest bear I ever knew. She wouldn't hurt a fly, much less a human. Her poor little motherless cubs..."
I'm sure PETA and co. will be pleased about these charges, but the rest of us should be outraged.
Are the police actually acting according to the law, or are they interpreting it creatively? I don't know, but either way, it should be stopped, whether by revising the law or by slapping down the charges as frivolous. This is the kind of thing that is "wrong with the world," and I hope Massachusetts voters rise up and let their voices be heard, if necessary, to make sure that it doesn't happen again and that human life is valued over bear life in the state.
Depending on whether Massachusetts has a "castle doctrine" law, Ahlstrand might have been better off if he'd killed a human burglar in his house than a charging bear outside. But perhaps the Massachusetts police would just have preferred that he'd been killt in a bar. Or in the back yard.