Thursday, January 12, 2012

'Tis the Season

Original publish date, October 25, 2011, Chariton Valley News Press, Salisbury Missouri


The holidays are upon us: for most families that means Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. At my house, a much more important holiday is fast approaching and the male kids in my house are giddy with excitement. No, they don’t dress up and although they both love to eat, it isn’t Thanksgiving or Christmas that has them nervous with anticipation.
It is, of course – deer season.
I will admit I use to share in their excitement. I would always dig out all the coveralls and blaze orange accessories, making sure everything was wearable and replace what wasn’t. I even have my first “wall hanger” proudly displayed in our living room. But for me, for several years, deer season was a chaotic, albeit humorous, event that I anticipated because my kids were always so excited.
Youth season weekend was much like Christmas at our house. All three kids were too excited to go to sleep the night before yet sprung out of bed with enthusiasm the next morning way before the crack of dawn as they dressed in multi layers of clothing, made sure they had plenty of hot chocolate, and piled in the truck - usually laying on the horn until Larry and I drug ourselves out of the house with all the fire power and forgotten deer tags and blaze orange gear. I won’t lie ­– the first year they all three were eligible for youth season, we made a major young parent mistake.
Larry and I both have our hunter’s education certification so we decided we would just take all three kids hunting opening morning ourselves – in the same deer stand. First, the commotion getting from the truck to the deer stand probably left every critter in the woods believing that foreign armies were invading their space. Then when the “I’m cold” whining began, it was three-fold. Then, have mercy on us, a deer appeared.
It was a yearling buck – aka too dumb to know to run. At first sight, we woke all three kids up (yet another rookie mistake – we should have just woke one up at a time). The excitement of seeing a deer quickly escalated into full fledge war. Who got the first shot? Joni felt that since being the oldest she should get first chance. Jeana was thoroughly convinced that since Joni had never shot a deer before that she had to be an awful shot and there was no sense wasting the first shell of the season on someone who was going to miss. Jake wasn’t quite awake at that point and realized he was never going to get a word in edgewise so he just went back to sleep.
Amazingly enough, the louder the war in the deer stand got, the more curious that poor little buck got and the closer he came. I don’t even remember who took the shot at about 20 yards out, but they missed. The deer ran off but stopped at about 50 yards and turned around to listen into the next argument blasting from our stand. Jake rolled over and got more comfortable ­– one of the girls shot again.
Funny thing about that year is, I don’t remember if anybody got that deer. I do still look back and laugh at the mass chaos in the stand though.
Larry and I quickly realized we were going to have to call in the troops to help with deer season from that year forward. He took Joni, I took Jeana, and family members stepped up to accompany Jake. Another deer stand was built and ground blinds were engineered out of whatever we could find so everyone had some sort of cover.
I do have lots of memories from deer season that I will always cherish. Jake’s first deer and his 15-foot jump from the deer stand as he sprinted across the field to get it. Jeana’s first deer was a doe, which she took some ribbing for from the boys in her class. They were quick to point out all the bucks they brought home. She quickly pointed out she made one shot all season at a running deer and brought one home. She was pretty proud of the fact that none of the boys her age could say that. Of course I’ll never forget the bobcat jumping out of the tree we were crawling into or the two-hour argument over the “cat” under the stand that was really a raccoon. Jeana was determined she could catch it and take it home. Not!
Although I no longer hunt – my house and craft room are a lot warmer - I still enjoy watching Larry and Jake gear up for the hunt and enjoy the weekend. This is the first year I have to watch Jake get in a vehicle and drive himself to the stand, which will be a little hard to do, but I’ll chalk it up to another memory. I still have to help clean the nasty critters and get all the meat in the freezer, but as long as the guys fend for themselves for meals all weekend, I’m good with that.
I actually enjoy having the house and TV remote all to myself for the weekend. It doesn’t matter if I’m in the stand or at home, I still get to enjoy the thrill of the hunt stories they bring home and relish in the fact that memories are still being made.
Isn’t that what holidays with family are about anyway – the memories that are made?

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