(OPED) Loose Ends: Bugling came as a surprise

MEEKER | Fall in the White River Valley brings the call of a different sort. Meeker is not only known for its huge mule deer and elk population, but for the local human elk callers that abound. A long time ago the local school system not only declared a one or two day hunting holiday each fall, but the sportsman club sponsored a “bugling” contest, as well. Letting school out for a hunting vacation was natural, as it lent Fall itself to local family schedules. Schools were closed to let them go out their families for their annual trip into the high country to fill the family larders. It was a tradition based on necessity.

Attending my first calling contest, I was shocked to hear the high-pitched unearthly sounds I heard coming from the small group of elementary students. The contestants’ bugling sounded like rusty door hinges or the short, ear-splitting shrieks of tantrum-throwing toddlers. It was hard to believe that any love-struck elk would seek out the source of the any of those sounds.

The winner of the yearly contest that fall surprised me as well. Age and gender didn’t seem to matter, but proficiency with a small piece of plastic pipe did create so many credible rendition. You might surmise that my more than twenty-five years of teaching elementary school would have offered me ample chances to perfect this art myself. There is never enough time unfortunately. Quite a few students offered to teach me, but as soon as I reminded them that I never intended to be in a high mountain valley with a need for such a skill they stopped offering. I never could master getting any sound from my brother’s bugle, or my daughter’s French horn. Elk bugling—human or animal is truly a seasonal tradition of the White River Valley.

Talking with many of the old-timers, I became aware that although most all of them grew up hunting to have enough to eat throughout the year. “You can’t imagine our disappointment,” one senior confided, “when company came to Sunday dinner and mother could only share our one pot of venison soup.” Another long-time resident had a different viewpoint to offer, as he suggested putting a monument on the courthouse lawn with a brass plaque honoring, “The doe who gave her life, so we always had something to eat.”

By DOLLY VISCARDI | Special to the Herald Times