“Do you want to shoot that?” I heard, as I broke from completely zoning out on a doe up a hill from me.
“What!? No!” I instinctively responded. “Do you want to shoot that?”
“No…I’ve shot plenty of deer. I just thought you might like that.”
“Is that even legal? It looks like a baby!”
“That’s a full-grown doe, you could definitely shoot that.”
“Aren’t we on a preserve? Can you kill things here?”
“Just because you’re not supposed to doesn’t mean you can’t. I really thought you’d want to, hmm.”
To say that this is the least awkward example of my interaction with my celebrity crush on Friday is a bit of an understatement. I was an hour late to meet Dave Petzal, THE Gun Nut, at the train station where we would proceed to drive an hour and a half in a combination of tense silence and weak ice breaker attempts…from the passenger seat of course. Besides the horror of my inability to communicate with him despite repeated warnings to speak loudly, I physically couldn’t cease the nodding off my head always insists on when I wake up before 6 am. No matter how early I went to bed or how much coffee I consumed, this was inevitable. I’m narcoleptic at every other time of day, but morning is the worst.
When Dave pulled over for coffee, not even hinting–telling, we got wet realizing rain was sneaking up on us. Dave had been sitting at a train station seven miles from his house for over an hour. Joe had driven for almost three hours from Jersey and was waiting at the preserve for an hour. I had the guilt of making everyone wait plus the pressure to shoot well and the fear the whole day would be ruined on my account. Rain made for a worst-case-scenario. And it didn’t stop. It stopped long enough to continually set up for shooting and prepare to film, then would pour every time.
The good news? I got to sit with Dave while he shot from a blind with a much bigger rifle than I will be handling anytime soon. This was chill inducing. I saw a crotchety old man completely transform given the opportunity to show me what defines him. I saw him ever so carefully adjust the sight until he shot the target dead center with absolute ease. This makes him happy, and there’s nothing like being in the presence of happiness visibly manifested. Especially when you’re grumpy.
I also finally made it upstate to see a ridiculous amount of green and mountains that I had no idea were there. I felt that familiar rush come over me that’s overwhelming every time I return to Nashville. You truly forget about this kind of natural beauty when all of the traveling you do around the city remains within and between building after building. At one turn we followed a mix between mist and clouds hanging effortlessly around breathtaking mountaintops. In that moment of awe I had to consciously remind myself where I was. Rain couldn’t ruin that.
I was relieved to finally leave and talk pitches with Joe on our ride home, the results of which I hope to share very soon. A career in journalism hinges so threateningly on connections and networking, and I am so lucky to have met so many insightful people through F&S. My fishing buddies have become my go-to’s to bounce ideas off of, and the great thing about rugged outdoorsmen is they rarely sugarcoat anything. If my lame attempt to pitch would never work I’m told so in plain. That’s my kind of communication. And that’s why I’m single.
Back in the office this week I’ve realized I can’t avoid uncomfortable dialogue, particularly when I find myself on phone calls like this:
“Field & Stream this is Ashley.”
“Hello?? Who is this?”
“This is Ashley.”
“Are you with a company??”
“Field & Stream. How can I help you?”
“I’m trying to upload photos for a contest and have tried every username and password I’ve ever made and nothing will work!”
“Do you have a username on fieldandstream.com?”
“No! I don’t want anymore username’s or password’s I have enough already!”