Here’s the first story I ever wrote for my dad. It was an idea he came up with some years ago and I had the pleasure of putting on paper for Christmas 2012.
A Dream Hunt.
“Wake up, kiddo. There’s a buck calling your name.”
Jerry rolled over and grunted. His dad, Ryan, was never subtle in waking techniques. The bedroom light was on and Jerry knew it wouldn’t be turned off until he was up, dressed and ready to go. “Is it the first day of hunting season already?” he asked groggily.
“It sure is, now get a move on, we can sleep later,” Ryan said, a little too cheerily. He loved these early mornings.
Jerry stared for a moment at the rifle on his dresser in a slight daze before he flipped the blankets back and donned his camouflage.
The sky was deep gray, boarding on a dusky blue. Clouds sailed readily across the sky putting the rough hills into a heavy shadow.
Jerry’s dad parked the truck at the mouth of a narrow ravine, which they’d been scouting for a couple of months. They climbed out of the truck and loaded their rifles. Their backpacks were slender, but they were loaded unmistakably with the familiar weight of hunting and survival gear.
Jerry and Ryan had spent a great deal of time in Jerry’s twelve years learning about the wilds of America and parts of Canada. Jerry knew his back pack would sustain him on his own for nearly a week. But that wasn’t the plan. The plan was to get their game on the first day.
The Ravine, as Ryan dubbed it, was not an obvious choice for a hunt. It was a long way off the beaten track and at first glance, it was far from promising, for the simple fact that it looked like a cliff.
The two knew that a small cave at the base of the cliff would continue narrowly for a while and then open up. The small cleft did open up and it was lighter outside than when they had entered it. In front of them was a huge boulder that was balanced between two arms of the ravine with a small space underneath it. The space was just wide enough for Ryan and his pack to slip beneath on his stomach. For Jerry it was a comfortable crawl. On the other side, The Ravine opened up even more into a valley. They took a seat with their backs to the boulder and laid their packs on the gravelly ground.
Below them a stream trickled slowly, carrying yellow, orange and red leaves along with it. Dogwood and pussy willow grew along its banks beside stands of quaking aspen, some of which had strips of bark peeled away. A few scattered firs and pines were sprinkled throughout the valley but most of it was either rock or aspen. The mountains that surrounded the valley were shear cliffs or hillsides, green with evergreens or yellow and red with undergrowth.
Father and son watched the valley with attentive eyes and weapons ready as it turned from dusky and dull to vibrant and alive with the sounds of birds. Ryan knew the calls of almost every bird in the mountains and could imitate a few to boot.
They waited a long while before light began to peek in the cleft of two hills and into the valley. Then, as if summoned, the sun broke in and turned the pretty scene into a thing of breath taking beauty. The yellow became gold, the orange became crimson and the red flamed brightly. The summer’s grass sparkled and the pussy willow and dogwood shone out even brighter. Dew lay over the land and gave it a silver sheen. The bird’s twittered much louder as though welcoming a long lost friend.
Ryan had hardly stirred the entire time. He could sit for hours without moving anything but his eyes. Jerry wasn’t so well trained, but Ryan was pleased that when he did move he made no more sound than could be helped.
Then, as if cued by the sunlight and birds, a smell wafted up from the valley. It’s wasn’t a pleasant smell, but it filled the two with excitement because it meant a deer was close by. Jerry looked expectantly at his father but Ryan held a finger to his lips. If the buck was going to come, he wouldn’t come toward strange noises.
Their excitement sent a surge of adrenaline through their veins, the adrenaline pumped in their ears and sharpened their senses. Every chirping bird became as loud as a shout and twice as shrill, falling leaves were like a slap and the expected sound of a snapping twig or thumping hoof, never seemed to come.
Then casually and silently below them, what had looked like branches, reared up a pair of antlers. One . . . two . . . three . . . four . . . FIVE points turned and up stood with the aid of a muscular, and somehow delicate body. It was a mule deer in full season and completely unaware of their presence.
Jerry nearly laughed out loud, but he contented himself to slowly draw up his .243 and prop it in a hand-carved wooden cradle. Ryan’s rifle also came up to take the kill shot if Jerry missed.
The shot couldn’t be clearer, the buck was standing squarely to Jerry and glancing around lazily. Jerry placed the crosshairs squarely on the heart and wrapped his finger around the trigger. Everything was dead silent, as if the birds were anticipating the shot.
Jerry was surprised to hear his dad’s voice break through to him, it felt as sharp as ice and the most disappointing sound in the world.
“Wake up, kiddo, there’s a buck calling your name.”
“Huh?” Jerry could still see the five point standing there.
“Wake up, it’s the first day of hunting season.”
Jerry opened his eyes and was blinded by the ceiling light. When his dad walked out he stared for a moment at the rifle on his dresser in a slight daze before he flipped the blankets back and donned his camouflage.