Skype Hunting

In the country, there is a practical joke played on the urban or easily fooled. I sense there is a history to it because it was attempted to be played on me twice..the first time, I fell for it; the second time, I knew the punchline.

I’m not sure if, in the internet age, the name has changed, or if it is still practiced…but when I was a young person growing up (mostly on my own) in rural Ohio, the joke was (and I’m not kidding) Skype hunting.

A google search confirms the game is more popularly known as Snipe hunting…and it goes like this:

A person from a relatively urban area (which could include a town that has a pizza shop, ice cream store and a “downtown” with a traffic light) is approached by their friend, family member, or soon to be family member, and two to three men they have just become acquainted with, and asked if he wants to go hunt Skype. The more urban person, not wanting to seem ignorant or judgmental of rural life, agrees to go. This person is given the sound a skype makes (typically a loud sound involving loud bellows), a flashlight, and into the woods the team goes. There are two hours of the city person making this ridiculous noise, being told to go through all kinds of brush, being told skype hate bright lights so good God man, turn off your torch or we will never find one! After some time, you are let in on the joke: skype (or snipe, or blue piglets, or whatever), don’t exist. This not the worst joke, but soon you discover that everyone is in on the joke…if you are spending a weekend in this rural area, it never fails someone will tell another, we took Michael snipe hunting, and everyone knows that, yes, Michael was in the woods, making strange sounds, looking for an animal that does not exist.

I am reading a book on naturalistic inquiry; I can’t seem to find it at present, which must mean I should spare the reader long quotes (for now), but one theme that resonates throughout is the question of what reality is. Is there a reality we can discover through investigation? Is all reality merely constructed? The book also raises the question of whether objective truth is possible; it is often seen as this dichotomy..objective or subjective. This book proposes that truth is in fact perspectival, but that does not necessarily mean there is no objective truth; it takes all perspectives to arrive at some form of objectivity.

We can all see that we in fact construct reality; the reality we see is simply informed by our perspective, what information we have at present; it is that forever feeling of looking back and realizing what something meant, in sort of a hindsight fashion.

In essence, we are always hunting for some snipe, or skype, something we can’t quite name even…we’ve never seen it, but in our constructed reality it must exist. God fits in this category, but so does our ideas of relationships, family, material acquisition. For me, one of those things has been family…having a fragmented one, I believed in forming one. I had some paradigm of what family meant (oddly, not based on a firm reality, but tightly held); and my search for it led me to see that that concept, much like the elusive snipe, does not actually exist. At the risk of sounding like an ethnographer, I can conclude, for example, that mothers are supportive, until they say something that ruins your self-esteem; children will never become what you want, but will become the people they are meant to.

We all know this and realize this, at some point. And these things, the truths we discover (like how little control we in fact do have; that career will always have highs and lows; that the damn car breaks down at the worst time, quite possibly the closest thing to objective truth) can make the whole effort seem daunting.

The Sunday I was heading home from visiting the country, I asked my friend, what the point of Skype hunting was…why everyone seemed to know it. He told me that, in reality, they wanted to spend time with people, have a good laugh, and spend some time exploring the woods; Skype hunting was just a rationale to wandering around the woods for two hours in the dark. I had to admit that, though I was upset at first at falling for it, it was a bit fun…and in the end I would not give up the experience in exchange for my pride.

One year later I found myself again in a rural area; and I am again approached, asking if I would like to go snipe hunting (this person got the name right). I replied, no, I know that joke. There was a pause..and on instinct I said, but, let’s pretend I don’t.