Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Recording mastered by Mike Gentry
A little boy that I know went out hunting with his daddy for the first time this morning. It was an unseasonably frosty morning, this one, and the dew on the grass was as slick and thick as if sprinklers, blasting freezing cold water had been working all night. This nearly 4-year-old couldn't have known what he was in for, coming equipped with his matching set of camouflaged sweatshirt and sweatpants and an intuitive, natural born thought that guns are cool. He couldn't have had any degree of understanding what guns actually do or that, when a bullet from one strikes one of those big deer out there in the damp grass or standing by the stalks of a cornfield, it bleeds out and dies, right there in front of him. He couldn't really have cared about it. He just liked the idea of being with his father for an entire morning, being around those guns and trying, but also not comprehending why he needed to stay so silent in the pursuit of the antlered. Colorado band The Lumineers have a song called simply, "Gun Song," and it provides the jumping off point here, thinking about all kinds of things, but mostly the weird intersection of innocence and graphic reality that often comes without being chosen. A morning like the one this little boy had was built on togetherness and sharing something that was likely shared between his dad and granddad, way back when and there's no other motive in bringing the boy along, other than sharing that moment. It strangely has nothing to do with death and there's no acknowledgement or recognition that the content might not be age appropriate. This day is brought to them easily, a father-son bonding experience if there ever was one. Or so some would think. It's a slippery business there, but you can't fault the father too much for wanting to spend time with his child, doing what has been defined to him by the generations of family members before him as about the most memorable or meaningful way that can be done. The Lumineers throw the rusty, barbed wire pricks into their folk songs every chance they get, framing them in a way that gives all of them multiple meanings, never clearly leaning one way or another, but being open for interpretation and feeling. We sense clean and crisp air in their songs. We sense clouded heads. We sense bird dogs and sweethearts and moving along and around at your own pace, trying to make it all work out in your head and heart. Things are trying in these songs. Things are hard and yet, everyone's wonderfully soft and caring. The hearts are of gold and the hands are warm and inviting. The songs are sturdy, with voluminous spirit, with the grainy meat to their bones that you'd find on the roaming, survivor coyote. At the end of the "Gun Song," lead singer, Wesley Keith, sings, "Things I knew when I was young/Some were true and some were wrong/One day, I pray, I'll be more than my father's son, but I don't own a single gun," and it's a moment of clarity as the instruments fade away. It's a little something that touches on the idea of it being too tough out there for conclusions. We're all hopeless tangents and there's nothing wrong with that if we keep the hearts golden and the hands warm.