I went to a “Game Feed” recently, an event put on annually by a local who goes by the name of “Chief.” He organizes this every January, in the winter, on a Saturday, in the middle of God’s country, on the outskirts of the town of Duff in Dubois County, southern Indiana.

It was a cold day with freezing temperatures, which was better than last year when it was raining and muddy. The dirt road was rocky and curving and surrounded by dense forest; it led into the property where the hunters gathered. It included a rundown but functioning cabin within which was a fireplace — a perfect place to congregate and escape the cold. There were a hundred or so hunters and friends, all gun people, a Second Amendment crowd, comfortable in the world of guns, ammo, camouflage, decoys, field dressing, butchering and living off the land, my kind of people. There were all ages represented including my son and his friends in their early 20s, and then up into the 50s, 60s and beyond.

The theme there was “game,” which meant flesh garnered through hunting and not from the supermarket or deli. As such, the various meats were lean, free of chemicals or additives, as good and tasty as it gets. The hunters prepared the meats, cooking, sautéing, grilling, barbecuing or frying on small gas or other makeshift stoves in the open air. There was turkey, pheasant, duck, moose, deer, squirrel, beaver, elk, rabbit and boar — enticing aromas everywhere. Some of the morsels were wrapped in bacon or strips of ham, or layered with cheese, accompanied by different sauces or gravies, or plain, the wondrous flavors of the ungarnished meat more than delicious enough.

The spirits flowed freely including whiskey, gin, bourbon, vodka, rum, beer and homemade wine, accompanied often by cigars — manly combinations. There was a plentitude of small fires around which the congregants huddled, drinking and eating, enjoying the camaraderie and their shared passion for hunting. The conversations were lively and good-natured.

I spent time with my son and his friends. They were a rarity, it seemed today, young conservatives. In somewhat inebriated fashion, they bemoaned the changes occurring in the country, the breakdown of the family, the coarsening of the culture and the rejection of faith. There was the ticking debt bomb. They worried also about future assaults on the Second Amendment and their right to self-defense. They expressed unease about their future, and I did not blame them.

These young men, patriotic, gun-loving Americans in flyover country, represented a despised demographic in today’s media and culture. Taken together, they were a motley collection: factory workers, small business men, farmers, truckers, mechanics, builders, marketers, website designers, students, teachers, retailers, attorneys, craftsmen, accountants and so on — the backbone of the nation, in other words. They were united by a love of the outdoors, guns, the hunting arts and many shared values. Talking with them, I felt a sense of despair, as if I were witnessing the passing of a way of life and culture, one that had dominated the country since its inception, had always been mainstream, but had now become marginalized and under attack.

These young people and, I suspected, the majority of those present that day, understood that America was a unique phenomenon. Its formation was providential and based on a most improbable sequence of events and convergence of philosophies; it was unlikely to be repeated. The way of centralized planners and the encroaching, coercive state was the way of all history and of the world today other than a precious few outliers, led, of course, by this country.

The United States was different in that it upheld from its origin a belief in the sanctity of the individual, the right to self-defense, small government, the free market and Judeo-Christian tenets. Most important was the influence of the Bible, and the belief that individuals were created in the image of God. Indeed these were the magic ingredients, the critical strands that the founders cobbled together to forge a nation that rejected tribal norms and historical precedent and embraced instead inalienable rights and liberty.

I hoped that America would withstand the assaults from within and not go the way of Rome and other great civilizations that have come and gone. I prayed that a divided nation with so many of its citizens having lost the plot of America, would not succumb to illiberal and hostile ideologies, culminating in its demise and fragmentation, a once magnificent civilization that ultimately could not sustain itself.

Yet my young friends were confident even as they expressed their apprehensions. Through the haze of gin and bourbon, they espoused optimism. They stumbled through defenses of the American way. They tripped over declarations of allegiance to free enterprise. And, yes, despite the alcohol, they were rational.

Many of them, as my son, were high school athletes — a hardy bunch, full of themselves, and of sturdy timber. They had engaged in high-level contests at young ages on the courts and fields of competition. Victory and defeat had seared them. They understood discipline, teamwork and sacrifice.

Young leaders, they are among the best this nation has to offer. They do not doubt themselves or their future prospects. They have their plans, come what may. They intend to continue the plot of America, the story of America, the great dream of America. I believe in them, and the country depends on them — and millions of others like them. I hope they will succeed, convince others of their creed, and thus save the nation.

Dr. Richard Moss, a surgeon practicing in Jasper, was a candidate for Congress in 2016 and 2018. He has written “A Surgeon’s Odyssey” and “Matilda’s Triumph,” both books available at amazon.com. Contact him at richardmossmd.com or Richard Moss, M.D. on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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