O, that we might fly back to 1960s South Dakota, when gentle chirpy music played behind our pheasant hunts and stag parties at the Plains Motel.
South Dakota Tourism tweets this splendid promotional video, Pheasantland USA, produced in the 1960s by South Dakota Game Fish & Parks, the University of South Dakota, and the Conservation Department of Winchester-Western.
At 1:10, a couple of guys hop out their airplane, ready to hunt in their coonskin caps. The narrator says they've flown a thousand miles just to shoot a "wild chicken."
At 3:45, our state scriptsmiths craft the compelling narrative of young Tim, "taking his place in the company of MEN." Wise old Els hands Tim a booklet on hunting and tells him to pay close attention to the section on gun safety to get ready for tomorrow.
Tomorrow is a long time away when you're fifteen and waiting to go on your first pheasant hunt. This isn't just another rabbit hunt. This is a real bird hunt, a man's game played by men's rules. What's going to happen? Will we see pheasants? Will I get a chance to shoot? And will I be able to hit one of those roosters? If I can get a bird or two, what will Dad say? Well, Tim, we'll see. you never know what's going to happen out pheasant hunting [SDGF&P, Pheasantland USA, promotional video, circa 1960s].
The finest French cinematography comes at 6:10, the morning of the big hunt, as the camera opens from the night and lingers on a single frying egg, clearly a symbol of Tim's youthful existential isolation, as well as a subtle homage to the sustaining feminine id.
At 7:45, the film offers a conservation lesson that Governor Daugaard needed eight meetings and workgroup to figure out: pheasants need cover. The film attests to the farmer's conservation mission and the need to keep grassland for nesting cover and shelterbelts for winter habitat. "You don't get something for nothing," says the narrator, "and you can't raise game without cover" [9:20]. A bit later, the film turns a fine phrase, saying that if we "protect a few places from the cow, the plow, and the match" [12:22] we'll have pheasant hunting in the fall.
From there on, the film is mostly hunting wisdom and joy. After the "first action of the day" at 11:40, MEN sit on the ground by the tailgate of their International pickup truck and make white-bread sandwiches of ring bologna and longhorn cheese sliced by their own knives in the field. Never do men live as well as at this moment.
Around 16:00, the men deploy in a cornfield, with the dog crew driving the birds through the golden rows toward the stealthy blockers out by the fence. "It doesn't make much difference if the birds know that the drivers are there, but the presence of blockers should be a military secret."
And at 17:23, we get the sign Lee Schoenbeck has on his new desk in Pierre: "Those two retrievers can be the equal of several men."
This film is mirthfully dated, yet entirely up to date. This fifty-year-old film is exactly the reel playing in every South Dakotan's mind as we head out to the field to blast our state bird.
Related Viewing: Compare that 1960s entry with this amped-up, slo-mo rock-themed 30-second spot on South Dakota pheasant hunting:
As thanks to the country that sent us the wily pheasant, here's an official South Dakota Tourism video promoting our fair state... with Chinese subtitles.21 comments