Sunday, November 4, 2012

A Day In the Life (of a Wild Rice Hunter)

I was eating lunch today at Baumhaur's Wings (not really on my list of diet-friendly places, but I had some grilled chiken skewers), and part of my not-quite-diet-friendly (but about as close as I could get on their menu) was wild rice.  That got me thinking, as I started talking to the kids about wild rice, and the difficulties in harvesting the little critters.

Wild rice... much tougher to collect than your ordinary farm-raised rice.  Too small for a net (they'll slip through the holes in the net, although some like to go after them with the fish nets you use to pull the fish that forget their sense of "up" from your tank), and obviously too small for a typical bow, they are frequently hunted with a toothpick bow.  That's quite time consuming, however... in fact, my little plate of rice probably took a LONG time to hunt with a toothpick bow.  In fact, it's becoming harder and harder for the average wild-rice hunter to have a sustainable business (compared to those who raise domesticated, farm-raised rice).  It's one thing for the wild-rice hunter to hunt enough wild rice to feed his family, but quite another for a wild-rice hunter to hunt enough wild rice to turn a profit.

And what of government subsidies?  Where is the help and assistance for the American wild rice hunting industry?  This is a topic that you don't hear about in the media or from any political candidates.  Why not?  Too sensitive?  Chinese rice farmers are flooding the US with "fake" wild rice; rice that is supposedly wild rice, but was, in actuality, farm-raised, often fed with artificial rice food, fattened up and unexercised and unhealthy (vs. the leaner wild rice), and sometimes painted or packaged with a tiny little bit of wild rice to give it that "wild rice look" when, in fact, it's farm-raised rice.  American wild-rice hunters can't compete with the low cost, imported, fake wild rice that is flooding the US restaurant industry these days.  (FYI, consumers have a legal right to know; if you're thinking of ordering "wild rice" from your favorite restaurant, be sure to ask the origin of the "wild" rice - if it's of Chinese origin, and not American, you may consider letting the restaurant know that your dollars have "United States of America" on them and should go to support Americans, not Chinese, and that you desire that they reconsider their wild rice supply - sure it may cost a little more on the menu, but you'll be guaranteed to be eating true wild rice and supporting the American wild-rice hunting industry.)

So, what does the life of a wild-rice hunter look like?  Rough.  Anymore, wild-rice hunters have very little time with their families, instead spending most of their lives doing the hunting in order to eke out whatever meager living they can.  Up at 4 am, out on the trail, tracking down as many of the elusive wild rice as they can find and bag (and note: wild rice hunting is quite the fine art; have you ever tried shooting a wild rye with a toothpick bow?), hunting from before sunrise to well after sunset, breaking very little for a snack once or twice throughout the day, and getting back in bed around 5 am, meaning they're already an hour late on the next day's hunting.  Poor guys!

You can make a difference.  Do your research, and do your part: come Tuesday, GO VOTE!  Yes, you're only one in a million (well, one in over 314 million, actually - although not all of those 314 million are of voting age or, even so, are registered voters), but what if the "score" was "half" to "half minus one"?  Your vote would certainly be of importance then, wouldn't it?  Do your part - VOTE!

Yes, this is obviously facetious... but, it's important that you fulfill your responsibility and take advantage of your right and privilege as a US Citizen to vote for the candidate(s) that support your views and desires for our nation.

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