Monday, November 07, 2005

The hunt

I went hunting with my cartoonist brother Jim once. We didn't wear California Camo either. I can't even remember where it was; I just remember the two of us walking along a logging trail somewhere on a November late afternoon as he toted a rifle. I had my camera hanging around my neck to do my own shooting, in case he shot something. We came home, armed with simple memories of a good walk in the woods.

Bill and I used to go hunting in Mrs. Kinney's woods behind our first house on the "Upper Place." By the way, like the barn, that old ice house where we lived for three years is slowly being dismantled. Anyway, when that area was just open woods at the bottom of Greenhorn instead of the fancy homes now residing there, we could walk through brush and open spots, looking for grouse.

I seldom took a gun with me, but I learned something about myself the time I did. Bill was off on another trail, and I was walking slowly, quietly, thinking I might scare up a bird. Suddenly, I looked through the bushes and thought I saw a grouse several dozen feet away. I froze on the spot, pulled up my 22 pistol, aimed-------------my index finger froze on the trigger. I couldn't do it.

Once that realization came and went, I walked toward the grouse only to discover it was a stump shaped and colored like a grouse. From that day on, I knew my contribution to any hunt would be to snap the pictures. I've gone hunting very few times in my life but have always enjoyed the drama of being in the woods in late fall with someone looking for game.

I also used to love sitting around the dinner table when my dad would tell his elk, antelope and deer-hunting stories---down in the Selway, on Deer Ridge near Bonners Ferry or up in the Sand Creek watershed. Whenever he'd come home with each year's deer, I knew there'd be some good listening as he'd smoke his roll-yer-own and tell about walking through this draw or up the side of that hill where he may have first spotted the big mulie buck or whitetail doe and pursued it. With his sharp eye and well-honed hunting skills, he bagged his share of big game, and he had his arsenal of beautiful rifles, all with tales attached.

My brother Kevin and his son Scott have continued the tradition, inspired by my dad. I'm sure Scott listened to his share of stories as Kevin would come home from hunting antelope, elk, and deer in Montana. Later, he accompanied his dad and learned his own skills about hunting rifles and tracking down game. I'm confident the two of them have their own phenomenal stories to share of their great Alaskan hunts this year.

In Kevin's case, it was the caribou he bagged in the tundra back in September and that huge grizzly that got away when some damn plane came swooping over just as he was set to shoot the critter. He also doesn't mind telling about his daughter-in-law J.J.'s grizzly, though, bagged on the same hunt with Scott and J.J.'s father.

Though I cannot bring myself to shoot any wild game myself, I still love all tales associated with the hunts. I guess it brings back some cherished memories of those evenings spent listening around the kitchen table to my dad and his hunting stories.

So, on this morning as Jim has fun with his hunters' cartoon, and as I post the photo of Scott with his Kodiak, I say, "Harold, here's to you!" I think you'd be mighty proud of your grandson and would probably want to listen to his stories too.

1 comment:

Bal's Daughter.... said... have hit the nail on the head once again...All month long in October I thought of Papa Bal and how he loved October. He would take me hunting...and I hated the killing...but as a daughter...I would love the way the hunt changed my father....and today...the website posted and I hear my brother sing "Dad's Song" tie it again to the husband - Denny as he's called by his boyhood preparing to leave for his 27th annual deer hunt in the Adironacks...bringing his son, Daniel along for the tenth year...James, the two-year old grandson will stay behind in Poughkeepskie wearing the tigger bathrobe his grandmother brought him...running down the hall with his fake rifle...shooting at the imaginary deer on the wall.