Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Drückjagd 2020

M and I participated in our third Drückjagd last weekend, again as Treiber (Hemingway would call us “beaters”) and not as Schützen (shooters/hunters). The weather conditions were fine, it had snowed overnight but wasn’t snowing or raining during the hunt, and it was a degree or two above freezing.

Every new Drückjagd yields a new experience, though as Treiber the plan is generally the same: Follow the instructions of the group leader and fight your way through the forest making some noise to drive the animals out of their daytime cover and make your presence known to the hunters in the stands with guns. We spent much of the time on Saturday walking along the side of steep hills, battling our way through thick and thorny blackberry patches, getting smacked in the face by branches, climbing over and under logs, slipping on wet leaves and branches, tripping over loose rocks, blaspheming, and trying to maintain our balance.

I was obnoxiously orange, but by the end of the hunt I was still warm, dry (except for my hands), and uncut by thorns, so forgive me for not caring how I looked. Those clothes are fit for the job!

The Treiberstock (beater's stick) is handy for lots of purposes: poking into places where you’re not sure how deep your next step will be, holding it “at the level of your eyes” to avoid having to fight through branches with your face, using it as a third leg to keep or regain your balance on a steep slope, beating it against trees to make noise, and laying it on a patch of blackberries you have to walk over because you can’t walk around it.

I hoped this photo would show the steepness of
the hill we had to walk along

We learn something with every Drückjagd. This time M and I had walkie talkies on our belts in case we got separated, as has happened on past hunts. That’s damn scary, to be honest, knowing there are hunters with guns all over the place. Every hunter in Germany knows you need to clearly see the animal you are about to shoot, judging its gender, age, and condition before you shoot. This prevents accidentally shooting a Treiber or a hunting dog, but still.

Our group leader this time was a young pup along with his brother. There was also another young guy who is attending a Jagdschule, and an older seasoned hunter, Bruno. After smiling politely a few times behind my Corona mask while we were standing around before the start, I told them I am from the US and “have difficulty with dialect.” That’s code for “I don’t understand a thing you’re saying.” Bruno laughed and said they would give it an effort to speak normal German, and he did. The others, not so much. I seriously did not understand more than about 5% of what they said. I don’t need to be part of the local conversation, so that was no big deal, but after every time it seemed we’d been given an instruction, I had to say to M, “Ok…what?” Bruno helped me with body language – basically just pointing in the direction I needed to go. Good enough!

Someday I'd love to get a photo of the difficult terrain we have to struggle through, but at those moments when I'm fighting Brombeeren (blackberry patches), slippery rocks, or beech thickets, I don't feel like getting out my camera.

About half the number of Treiber and hunters participated this year, and yet more Wildschweine fell than in past years. This year the hunters got 31 Wildschweine, 18 Rehe (roe deer) and four foxes. The Wildschweine are especially important to cull because their population is out of control and the afrikanische Schweinepest (swine flu) has made it to Germany. Bachen (sows) can reproduce before they reach one year old, and each sow can have up to 8 Frischlinge (young'uns). They can cause unbelievable damage to forest floors, fields, and parks, for which the hunter then has to compensate the landowner. Shortly before the hunt I contacted the organizers and placed an order for some cuts of Wildschwein and Reh, which are on our Christmas meal plan!

Rehrücken mit Kräuter-Nusskruste
(venison tenderloin)

Because of Corona there was no celebration afterwards and the organizers couldn’t offer delicious warming Gulasch, bread and beer as he had last year. That was ok, though. We were tired and I was starting to get cold now that we weren’t moving anymore, so we said good-bye to the few people we knew and headed home.

There is something about this that is enjoyable, even though the job of Treiber is not easy! Being a part of a yearly tradition? Getting to know more hunters in the area? The sense of accomplishment having done something difficult outside in the cold without breaking or spraining anything? At any rate, we’re doing another one this weekend. 

Friday, December 4, 2020

Expat Adventures continued

Expat Adventures, Ep. #134b

Yesterday I had the little operation to repair my trigger finger. As I wrote in mid-November, I’d injured it 2 months ago while cleaning my gun when I broke M’s carbon Putzstock. The handle snapped off and sliced through my finger. I put some Bepanthen on it and a band-aid, thinking it would heal on its own. The doc diagnosed the resulting wound as an Überbein, which translates, among other things, to “Bible cyst.”

Thanks to my son’s girlfriend, who is studying to become a Physician Assistant, I now know that it got that name because back in the day people used to take care of such cysts by slamming a Bible (the biggest and heaviest book in everyone’s home) on it. PSA: This method is no longer recommended.

I showed up punctually for my “surgery,” and after waiting in the holding pen for two hours, I was shown into the operating room. The doc numbed my finger with a shot of Novacaine on each side and then went for his lunch break while it took effect.

When he returned the finger was deadened, and he started slicing away. He pulled an 8mm piece of the carbon Putzstock out of my finger, and asked if I wanted it back. I said “Yes, actually my husband said I should ask for it, though I think he was joking.”

Nurse: “He’s a Swabian? Of course he wants it back. They’re so sparsam (thrifty), he probably wants it to put the Putzstock back together!”

The doc asked if I need a Krankschreibung - a doctor's note to get out of work. Uhh...for a slightly damaged finger? No. M says Germans love those and doctors offer them freely. These days I only teach one evening a week, so I think I can handle it.

Then the nurse wrapped me up. Goodness gracious!

With Saturday’s Drückjagd looming a day and half away, I asked her what I am allowed to do and not do with that bandage. She said I can do anything, just not let the bandage get wet. Tromping through the forest for 2 ½ hours as a Treiber alternately sweating and getting rained or snowed on shouldn’t be a problem then.

I did go in for a bandage change this morning and got one much more reasonable in size. I spent this afternoon (Friday) experimenting to see what I can accomplish while keeping the thing dry. First things first, I can still do a Falknerknoten (falconer’s knot) with only three good fingers and a thumb. Priorities.

Good thing I won't be shooting tomorrow,
'cuz that's my trigger finger!

I then put on a rubber glove (who knew a year ago how often we’d be glad to have a huge box of single-use rubber gloves in the house?) and taped it with adhesive tape, and was thus able to wash my hair. That works for doing dishes and washing the floor as well. I only had it on for 30 minutes, though, not the 4+ hours I’ll have to keep it dry in the woods tomorrow. I was able to get my Treiber pants and jacket on, and if you’re wondering what would be so hard about that, wrap your index finger in a sock and then get dressed up in winter gear. It’s not that big a deal, but it’s awkward. Happily I discovered that, even with my trigger finger twice its usual size, I can still type relatively normally.

It doesn’t fit into the bright orange Treiber-gloves M bought me for my birthday, so my Schwiegermutter suggested I cover it with a plastic bag and a winter sock, which I just might do!

Incidentally, M has not asked me to do any gun-cleaning since I lost the fight with his carbon Putzstock. So I guess I have a sort of Krankschreibung after all.


One last expat-related note: I am pubicly insured, and I won't see a bill for any of this - 5 doctor's visits including getting stitches out in 10 days and minor surgery. I have no deductible. Medication (anti-biotics & pain killers I didn't need) cost €5 total. In the Homeland I'd have to re-think  Christmas to pay for this. 

For those who are curious, here's the carbon piece, which was lodged between my cuticle and knuckle, next to my undamaged finger for size comparison.