“When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” Hunter S. Thompson
Missouri is a “hunting state” and like most hunting states, which is just about all mid-western states, they don’t appreciate being told what to do. Missourians are particularly touchy about their right to carry guns, and they’ll stand up for stupid hunters, unless it’s a really stupid hunter like David Berry Jr., who even Missourians can’t rationalize.
David Berry Jr. is the son of David Berry Sr. who, along with another brother, Kyle, like to shoot deer, take their heads, and leave the rest of the carcasses to rot. According to Lawrence County’s conservation agent, the father and sons have probably poached and killed “several hundred deer.”
The Berrys were arrested last August in what was called “the biggest poaching case in Missouri history.” Judge Robert George may be a Missourian, but he’s obviously not a “hunting judge,” since judges who are hunters themselves don’t generally pass down sentences that include having to watch the Disney classic Bambi “at least once a month for a year.”
So many others have, including former Outdoor Life editor, Raymond Brown who, back in 1942, called it “the worst insult ever offered in any form to American sportsmen.”
Such sentences go beyond the pale, according to some Missouri residents, but Judge George was clever in his sentence wording. The “at least once a month for a year” suggests Berry Jr. might actually get attached to the film.
So many others have, including former Outdoor Life editor, Raymond Brown who, back in 1942, called it “the worst insult ever offered in any form to American sportsmen.” He later retracted that statement, referring to Bambi as “a children’s classic meant to show the deer’s side of things.”
Still, it’s a bit much expecting a cute animated deer to make a poacher right his ways. Think back to the 70s when doctors used aversion therapy on homosexuals. They figured showing erotic same-sex images combined with nausea drugs would put anyone on the straight and narrow. Except the subjects were already on the straight and narrow. The therapy shook them up a bit, but not enough to start them welding or playing hockey.
Aversion therapy has its limitations, namely it fails. Take Stanley Kubrick’s classic A Clockwork Orange. Alex (Malcolm McDowell), is forced to watch a bunch of violent images under the influence of nausea drugs, called the Ludovico technique in the film, but Alex eventually returns to his old droog ways, ironically when he hears Beethoven’s Ninth, a song played during his rehabilitation. You hear anything enough — or see anything enough — and bad things happen. I get the same way listening to Kiss.
The whole family seems to take the law in stride, and a year’s sentence — even with Bambi reruns — probably won’t stop them from “taking wildlife” with craven abandon.
It’s possible Judge George didn’t know what else to do with Berry Jr. He has other convictions, one for carrying unlicensed guns. The whole family seems to take the law in stride, and a year’s sentence — even with Bambi reruns — probably won’t stop Berry—or any of the Berrys—from “taking wildlife” with craven abandon.
If anything, they might start giving deer names. There was a case in Louisiana where a hunter listed his kills by name. He spent a year in jail where all he got to watch was Mork and Mindy. Frankly, Robin Williams wouldn’t stop any serious hunter from returning to the mindless slaughter of animals.
Trophy hunters are an odd lot, though. If the Berrys killed several hundred deer for their heads, they must have one crowded living room. I’m surprised it hasn’t been investigated, at least by Better Homes and Gardens.
And wouldn’t it make sense to give the Berrys a month’s sentence for every head? Any family that goes out for the evening, drops a few deer and cuts off their heads, surely deserves more time than someone arrested with an ounce of grass. And how many people up for minor drug possession get to watch Drugstore Cowboy or even The French Connection once a month for a year?
Whether Bambi will turn the Berry’s into conservationists is a bit of a stretch, but the judge made his call.
But, like I said, Missouri is a “hunting state,” and stiff convictions — even in cases like the Berry’s — aren’t exactly popular. Judge George made a politically sound decision. Whether Bambi will turn the Berry’s into conservationists is a bit of a stretch, but the judge made his call, and at least we know, if we get caught poaching in Missouri, we’ll have hours of Bambi ahead of us.
On the other hand, if we’re caught with small amounts of grass, we’ll probably get two years, and still be watching Mork and Mindy. That would cure me of recidivism. Any of those 70s shows would. Then again, I’m not a poacher in Missouri.
They probably look forward to it.
Robert Cormack is a novelist, journalist and blogger. His first novel “You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Scuba Dive)” is available online and at most major bookstores (now in paperback). Check out Yucca Publishing or Skyhorse Press for more details.