Tim is a hunter. I remember back in the early days of our marriage, he'd be so excited about deer hunting that he would lay awake at night too excited to sleep, just as if he were a small child on Christmas eve. I thought it was endearing. When Dylan and Mike got old enough, they hunted too, and then there were three of them, all too excited to sleep, just like small children on Christmas eve. Those days are passed now, those boys grown into men. They hunt without Tim. And Tim? He still hunts, but I think that something is lost to him, now that the boys are grown and gone. He doesn't lay awake in the night anymore. Last year, for the first time in our marriage, he didn't even get a deer. The last day, he didn't even bother to go into the woods. It made me a little sad, although I could not have told you why, not exactly. It just did not seem like a good sign.
The excitement that Tim has lost, Mike has gained. I cannot tell you if he lays awake the night before first day, unable to sleep, but I can tell you that he loves hunting. I can tell you that he scopes out hunting sites well in advance, sending trail cam pictures to his father, calling to tell him about his adventures, about the deer he saw and the bear he saw and the turkey he saw. He loves his life in the woods. I watch Tim's pleasure as he listens to that excitement, or as he receives an e-mail. In fact what Mike is now what I remember Tim was, and it makes me smile inside as I listen. Yes. Mike's a hunter alright. He's gotten so good at his hobby that before the first day of deer season, the Monday after Thanksgiving, Mike was done. He'd taken both of his deer during archery season.
Not wanting to be left out of the excitement of first day, Mike wanted Tim to hunt from one of the sites that he'd picked out earlier. Tim said yes. And this year, something happened. Mike sent pictures. Mike called Tim to plan this adventure and the next thing I knew, Tim was getting excited about hunting again. He talked non-stop about hunting. The night before opening season, he carefully lay out all of his hunting gear, and when he went to bed, once again he was too excited to sleep. He was up at 4 AM, chattering, and out the door at 5:15, driving his truck to where Mike would meet him.
Coming home from school shortly after noon on opening day, I saw Tim's truck in the driveway. Mike's truck was right next to it. I pulled into the driveway thinking, "That's a good sign."
I got out of the car and noticed that the deer cart in the back of Mike's truck was mudded up. "That's a good sign," I thought.
I walked past Tim's truck and peeked in. I saw his deer strap was blooded up. "That's a good sign," I thought.
I walked into the house where Tim and Mike were casually standing. Tim said, "Get the camera. I want you to take a picture of my nice doe." I'd heard that nonsense before. A few years back, when I still worked nights, Tim had come thundering up the stairs to tell me to 'get up, come look at the big doe I got.' I looked at him blearily and said, "It must be a buck, and a mighty fine one at that, because I know for a fact you would not wake me up from a sound sleep for a doe." I'd been right, too. It was a buck, such a nice buck that Tim had the head mounted, and it hangs on our wall now.
So this past Monday, I knew better, and I said, "Nope. I recognize that speech. You got a buck, and it's a nice one, too." He twinkled, but he said, "No. It's a doe." I said, "Buck." Mike somberly said, "Doe," even as Tim intoned once more: "Doe." I went for the camera singing, "Do, a deer a female deer, re, a drop of golden sun"
Long story short, I was right. It was a buck, and a nice one too. It had been at least an eight point, but the antlers had broken off on one side. Still it was a big rack, I took a picture of the Tim with his deer, and then I said, "We need the guide in there, too," and I got a couple more pictures of Tim and Mike, side by side, that 200 lb deer between them. They both look seriously into the camera, Mike explaining that Hornburgs do not smile for the camera.
I'll get two of those pictures printed off for Christmas. I'll get them each a nice frame. Hornburgs may not smile for the camera, but I imagine that picture will make each one of them smile a little every time they look at it, even years from now. I'm not a hunter, but I understand that something has come full circle here. The teacher steps back. It is the student's time to show what he has learned. Tradition, love, a passion handed from one generation to the next, but then handed back again, something intangible, but very real, something between two men who look seriously into the camera, a big six point buck between them.
Debby Hornburg lives in Scandia. She can be reached at debby_hornburg
@yahoo.com, and her blog can be found at lifesfunnylikethat.blogspot.com