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An Evening Out

September 8, 2013

We walked down the trail toward the field. I was new to hunting and was content to follow Jim’s lead.

After walking forever, and working up quite a sweat, we stopped to rest under a large oak tree. The ground beneath was blanketed with acorns.

‘Well, here we are…’ He whispered.

I looked around, seeing nothing but trees, underbrush, and if I looked carefully, little glimpses of a meadow beyond the woods. ‘Where, exactly, would we be?’ I inquired.

‘This is where you’ll be sitting,’ he replied.

Again, I surveyed the area, thinking maybe I missed something. ’Where’s the stand?’ I asked.

Jimbo began to fidget a little. He dug around in his pocket and pulled out his Marlboros. Wordlessly, he offered me one while kicking the toe of his Sorel into the dirt. ‘Well, uh…there’s not really a stand…’

‘What?’ Where will I sit?’ I asked, my voice betraying the rising sense of panic I was feeling.

Jim tipped his head back and pointed to the lowest branch of the old oak with his cigarette, ‘Up there.’

Two separate fears rose in my mind‘s eye…each looming large, side by side, both equally scary.

First, I was afraid of heights. And there wasn’t a stand here, so I could only assume that Jim’d expect me to park myself up on that branch. It looked sturdy enough, but there wasn’t even a board on which to sit, and no railings, either. I was skeptical.

Secondly, I was afraid of hunting from the ground. Bears lived in the woods, and we weren’t totally sure they were all denned up, happily hibernating until spring. There were other nasty critters around, too…badgers, pine martins and fishers; not big animals, but ones with nasty dispositions. All three had a reputation for being fearless, never backing down, and having no qualms about going after people. I figured I’d be safer in an elevated stand…one with rails.

Going home wasn’t on the docket until after dark, so I was stuck here, forced to face my fears.

‘Where’s the steps? Are they on the back side of the tree?’ I asked as I began to circle the massive trunk.

Jim spoke softly, ‘Ummm…there aren’t any steps.’

At that point, I began to question my sanity…and Jim’s, too.

‘How am I going to get up there?’

Jimbo divested himself of his camouflage backpack and carefully leaned his Remington 30.06 against the trunk of a nearby tree. I did the same.

Jim laced his fingers together, forming a stirrup of sorts.

‘Okay…now, you put your foot here, and when I give you a good boost, swing your other leg over that branch…got it?’

Gulp. ‘Uhhhhh…I guess…’

‘We have to hurry…I still have to walk to my stand,’ He explained.

‘You have a stand?’ I queried.

‘Let’s just get you situated, we don’t have much time.’ he instructed.

On the third try, I finally managed to loop my leg over the branch and before I knew it, Jim launched me skyward leaving me no choice but to grasp wildly for anything solid.

I wound up hugging the trunk, my fingers digging into the rough bark; my legs circled around the limb, ankles firmly crossed.

‘Okay,’ he said calmly. ‘Here’s your backpack…just lean down a little and grab the strap.’

By that time, I was convinced I would soon meet Jesus. Probably after I fell from my perch. And now Jim wanted me to let go? What was wrong with him?

‘No.’ I squeaked.

‘C’mon…you’re going to need this stuff. Your hand warmers and candy bars are in here.’

Sneaky devil, I thought. He knew I hated being cold and loved those little Snickers. I pried my left hand loose and reached downward, toward the pack.

Jim finally tossed it into my lap and I was then able to loop it over my arm and hug the tree once again.

Next came my rifle. It couldn’t be tossed, so I had to reach for it…with both eyes open.

Once I had the gun firmly in my grasp, I slid the strap over my shoulder and re-gripped the oak.

Jim started off, skirting the little field. I could see him shaking his head from side to side and imagined him muttering to himself as he walked.

Daylight faded. Shadows grew dark. Soon, it was pitch black…and I began to wonder how I would get down.

After a time, I’d pretty much resigned myself to fact that I would probably fall.
How could Jim help me down if he couldn’t see? I wondered.

My limbs grew numb, but I didn’t dare shift my position. I’d fall for sure! If I waited for Jim, he might be able to help once I landed.

Then I heard pigs grunting as they walked beneath my perch. I saw the shadows they cast as they meandered toward the field. I didn’t know anyone had pigs in this area.

Weird, I thought.

Jim eventually returned. I didn’t hear him approach and I nearly jumped out of my skin as he whispered ‘Did you see anything?’

‘OH! You scared me! I didn’t hear you coming.’

Miraculously, we managed to get me back on solid ground safely. I’m not sure how; I just know that one minute I was hugging the tree trunk, and the next I was standing on the ground.

‘So…did you see anything? He repeated.

‘Nope, but I heard some pigs a few minutes before you got here, ‘ I replied.

‘What? Pigs? There aren’t any pigs around here.’

‘What was that grunting then?’ I asked.

‘Bucks grunt! You had deer under you! Why didn’t you shoot?’

I explained that I could barely see their shadows as they moved toward the field…and I didn’t actually know they were deer. I didn’t know bucks made grunting sounds.

‘Well, at least you saw deer…even if you didn’t know it. All I saw was a red squirrel.’

Jim turned out to be a very patient teacher, taking it one step at a time. He knew that I’d been held up at gunpoint when I was eighteen, and had recently made the decision to learn to use a gun to conquer my fear of them.

My original goal was simply to learn to shoot. Neither of us ever thought I’d want to hunt, yet, here I was…in the woods during deer season with a rifle slung over my shoulder.

Go figure.

  1. Greg Frosig permalink

    Another nice addition to your blog and book.

    Sent from my iPhone

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