(NASHVILLE SKYLINE is a column by CMT/CMT.com Editorial Director Chet Flippo.)
If you have any conscience at all, how could you buy, shoot and kill a tame, captive bear named Cubby in a pen surrounded by an electric fence? Can someone explain that to me?
When Montgomery Gentry's Troy Gentry was originally charged with a wrongful kill of Cubby, he vowed to fight for his innocence in court. Instead, his lawyers arranged for a plea bargain and he apologized -- apparently with a straight face -- only for wrongfully ("improperly") tagging a dead tame bear as a dead wild bear. Since canned hunting seems to be sanctioned in Minnesota, he gets off with a fine. And he has to give up Cubby's hide. I wonder if Cubby died quickly, without suffering. What Gentry did may be legal in Minnesota, but it wasn't right, and it wasn't moral.
In case you missed it, here's part of the story the Duluth (Minn.) News Tribune published Monday (Nov. 27):
Country singer Troy Lee Gentry admitted Monday that he shot and killed a domesticated black bear in a 3-acre penned area and not in the wild, as he had claimed when he registered the animal with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Gentry pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Duluth to the misdemeanor crime of submitting a false hunting registration form after killing the bear.
Gentry, 39, of Franklin, Tenn., a member of the country singing duo Montgomery Gentry, had been scheduled to stand trial starting Monday but reached a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney's Office.
He agreed to pay a $15,000 fine and forfeit the mounted bear, the bow he used to kill the bear, and all hunting, fishing and trapping privileges in Minnesota for five years.
The singer admitted that he set up a hunting stand in a 3-acre pen that was surrounded by an electric fence. [U.S. Attorney Michael] Dees told the court that Gentry had registered the bear as being shot in the wild six miles east of Sandstone.
And this from the Chicago Tribune on Tuesday (Nov. 28):
Lee Marvin Greenly, 46, Gentry's local hunting guide, pleaded guilty at the same hearing to two felony charges of helping other hunters shoot bears at illegal baiting stations he maintained inside a national wildlife refuge near Sandstone in east-central Minnesota.
Gentry told the court he bought the bear from Greenly with the understanding they would videotape a hunt inside the bear's enclosure, which was surrounded by an electric fence.
"Lee and I made a deal about harvesting this bear," Gentry testified. They also agreed to report that it was killed in the wild 6 miles east of Sandstone instead of on Greenly's property south of the town.
I grew up in Texas, where there has always been a healthy respect toward the hunted from the hunter and where the term "sportsman" still means something. But what is this disgrace? This is no Davy Crockett. This person kills a captive, trusting animal for a trophy. In a 3-acre pen, which is I think about two and one-third football fields, including the end zones. Surrounded by an electric fence, no less. Cubby had no way to escape even if he sensed that the humans in his pen were there to slaughter him.
Gentry plea bargains, pays a fine and walks. He is a disgrace to country music. What else is there to say?
Another thing we didn't need in 2006 was the amazing worldwide media knee-jerk reflex that immediately accused Faith Hill of supposedly disrespecting Carrie Underwood's CMA female vocalist victory. You would have thought World War III had broken out at the CMA Awards, from all the headlines. I have known Faith since seeing her Nashville debut at Fan Fair at the old Tennessee State Fairgrounds in 1995 and know that she has a wicked sense of humor, one that not everyone always gets. Especially Hollywood gossip columnists -- which is another thing country music doesn't really need but is increasingly getting in large numbers.
The whole Sara Evans episode also attracted all the bottom-feeders from the gossip industry. Almost immediately after the news of Evans' allegations against her so-called husband became public, CMT and CMT.com were deluged with phone calls and e-mails from the gossip mills in New York and L.A., seeking more juicy details. We didn't take the calls or respond to the e-mails, and we won't in the future on any such matters.
I was also very concerned to see Keith Urban feel the need to go into rehab, but I applaud him for the courage to publicly acknowledge his problem and to address it head on.
Finally, all that needs to be said about the CMA Awards show was said far better than I could, by New York Times writer Kelefa Sanneh: "Apparently Nashville isn't a town built around script writers."
Well, so far, that's all the things I can think of that have bothered me this year. I'm sure I'll think of 12 more before dinner.