Monday, November 19, 2012

And Now We Shall Do Manly Things

If there's one thing I enjoy in any memoir it's candor.  Speak to me honestly, don't put on makeup, give me the real you.  A writer who displays his own shortfalls unapologetically and without casting blame, placing all that he isn't out there for the world to see has my respect. As I read Craig Heimbuch's recent release, And Now We Shall Do Manly Things (not just a clever blog post title), I found all of the above woven into a tale about a man wrestling with the tribulations of manhood as he takes up bird hunting.

And Now We Shall Do Manly Things cover
Heimbuch's quest begins when his father gives him a 12 ga Winchester, more in a "Here's something pretty cool" way than an ill-disguised prod to go hunting. Curiosity gets the better of him and the result is a year-long chronicle of discovery, missteps, perseverance and self-realization.

A journalist married to a schoolteacher raising three young children, he is consumed daily by a job, paying rent, and the endless challenges of parenthood.  Here is a guy who doesn't have hobbies or passions as much as he has roles: employee, employer, provider, husband, father, fixer of all that breaks.  "Life is too much about compromise," he notes, a sentiment painfully familiar to many of us. For Heimbuch, hunting evolves into a departure from an existence devoted mainly to the well-being of others.

The story is funny, at times laugh-out-loud funny, without seeming silly or contrived.  The simple truth of lines such as "like our toys, pheasant were imported from China," kept a smile on my face while an extremely witty, albeit fictional, exchange between Ted Turner and Mark Zuckerberg had me spitting milk through my nose.
"Hello, Ted?  Hi, it's Mark Zuckerberg."
"Mark Zuckerberg.  I created Facebook."
 "Look, if this is one of them cults or Amway or some other foolish thing, I don't want any and Jane don't live here no more."
The relatively one-sided conversation continues with Zuckerberg intent on shooting one of Turner's bison and Turner, well, just being Ted.  Heimbuch possesses a well-grounded sense of humor and never falls into the trap of taking himself or the story too seriously.

The book offers a somewhat sobering glimpse into the declining number of hunters, one extending beyond the loss of habitat and the urbanization of America.  Heimbuch experiences the difficulties facing a guy who hasn't grown up in the sport but would dearly like to give it a try, the closed doors and skepticism encountered by a grown man who wants to hunt.  Were it not for several accommodating relatives this book might never have happened.  Our sport is one that's difficult to figure out on your own, at least before you grow tired of getting skunked and give it up for something less cryptic.

Oddly, the father who gave him the shotgun and who is an avid lifelong hunter only plays a peripheral role in his son's passage into the shooting sports.  We're left to wonder whether this was intentional or merely bad luck on the calendar, but Heimbuch leaves little doubt how much he wanted his father included.

I learned of this book through an email from TLC Book Tours who subsequently sent me a copy and included this review in a month-long virtual tour.  At 324 pages it's an easy read and one any bird hunter would enjoy.  George Bird Evans or Datus Proper it's not, nor is it meant to be.  It's a modern story that most guys can relate to, and fortunately it happens to be about wingshooting.


  1. That's interesting that the author didn't really have any hobbies or passions before taking up bird hunting. I was just reading a blog where the dad was talking about how he lost his identity in his marriage and being a dad because he never went out and did anything anymore, though he didn't realize that until he and his wife separated. He only talked about it for a few sentences, but I thought it was really insightful. I think it's so important to have hobbies and passions that you pursue, especially when you're a spouse or a parent.

    Thanks so much for being on the tour! This is such a fantastic review.

  2. I'll have to check this out.. I always have the thoughts of the declining tradition stuck in my head as well. Thanks for the heads up.

    1. My pleasure Larry. I like that new blog of yours.

  3. Thanks Mark. I got a bit jaded of the bikes and fish blog, thought I'd fill a niche with my "secret" addiction.