In most parts of the country, the official phrase of summer is, "Is it hot enough for you?" In Maine, the official phrase of fall perhaps should be, "Is it safe enough for you?"
Various sections of Maine are up in arms after a jury last week cleared a 47-year-old hunter in the shooting death of a 37-year-old mother of twin girls. On the surface, the decision seems to pit pacifists against gun-rights advocates, but things aren't really that clear.Donald Rogerson, a supermarket produce manager from Bangor, shot housewife Karen Wood in the chest as she walked in woods behind her home in Hermon in 1988. Rogerson could have received up to 20 years in prison had he been convicted of the manslaughter charge.
Rogerson's defense was that he fired after he spotted what he thought was a deer through the scope of his rifle. He said he apparently mistook the woman's white mittens for a deer's white tail!
Hunters in this state - both Utahns and out-of-staters - have brought back some very sorry excuses for trophies each year, including some very folkloric tales of out-of-staters plugging at herds of cattle. But never has a Utah hunter (at least to my knowledge) shot a housewife near her home.
Gerry Veninsky, Wood's brother, told reporters after the jury's Oct. 17 verdict that the case was not a hunting issue. "It's not a gun-rights issue. It's responsibility and accountability."
However, Maine's top wildlife official - William J. Vail, commissioner of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife - claims the decision made it clear that the tragedy was an accident (granted, no one thought it was first-degree murder), and it made no "social statement about Maine and hunting."
Call me a cynic, but I wonder what Rogerson's eyesight is like if he mistook a housewife for a deer - though photos taken afterward show Rogerson with glasses. I also wonder if Rogerson is an experienced hunter and if he was hunting with companions.
More than 200,000 hunting licenses are sold each year in Maine. I'm not sure exactly what requirements the state of Maine makes to issue a hunting license, but evidently it needs better mandatory hunter preparation and education classes - or else officials should start selling housewife-hunting licenses.
I'm not claiming that Utah's hunting requirements are better or worse than Maine's, but the fact remains that though there have been hunting tragedies in this state, I don't recall anyone ever having been shot dead so close to their homes here.
I personally couldn't ever hunt anything with soft brown eyes (unless it's springtime and the target walks on two legs), but I don't begrudge Utah's sportsmen, at least to a certain point. The jury decision, though, will make me wary about hunting season, even this far away from the East Coast.
Most of all, it will make me wonder if there's any way I can manage to wear hunter orange during October anywhere I go and still try to pass it off as a fashion statement. Please, housewives, let's be careful out there.