Sunday, June 19, 2011

Hunting with my Daddy

Happy Father's Day!

    Of all the memories with my Dad, one sticks out.  It was just last year.  We went hunting.  Now I am not the best hunter.  I crunch when I'm supposed to sneak and I miss when I'm supposed to hit.  If you haven't guessed yet, I go hunting solely to hang out with my dad and wear orange! 
    I took the hunter's safety test months before that, while I was big and pregnant.  I tottered in the prone position which was hard because my belly was in the way.  Still, I shocked the instructor when I got the highest score.  Sure I was up against pubescent boys, but I had won!
    So we went hunting.  My Dad woke Cade and me at 5 a.m..  My Uncle was there too.  Now that man is part mountain man, part grizzly and part eagle--seriously.  He can track anything and do anything.  He has these crazy-blue eyes just like my dad and I think he charms the animals before we hunt for them.
    My Dad and Uncle made us shepherd 's coffee.  They lit a fire, boiled some water and then threw some coffee grounds in.  I watched the dark bubbles sliding over the edge of the rusty pan.  My breath came out in big, cloudy puffs that matched the color of the moon above us.  Even though I wore about fifty layers of orange it was still freezing cold.
    "You cold?" my Dad asked.
    I shook my head.  "Nope."  There was no way I'd let him know I wasn't as tough as Zeus!  I'd gotten enough crap from everyone, saying I wouldn't like hunting.  I'd rather lose a leg than admit defeat!
    My Dad dumped a cup of freezing cold water on top of the coffee soup and the grounds sunk to the bottom.  "We call this shepherd's coffee."
    "When we were boys," my Uncle said, "some of our friends would come up into these mountains and herd sheep for months.  When we came to visit, they'd give us coffee like this and rock-hard bread."
    The whole thing seemed magical.  Black coffee and rock bread!  I suddenly wanted to herd sheep!  My Uncle handed me an old mug filled with shepherd's coffee.  I wrapped my hands around it and smiled into the tendrils of steam.  The coffee was strong and harsh, like the mountains we camped in, but it warmed me up and ignited the magic of the morning.
    My Dad and Uncle rode on one four-wheeler while Cade and I rode on another.  I hugged Cade and leaned my head against his thickly coated back.  We crept up, further into the mountains.  I knew the animals watched us.  I felt their inquisitive eyes in the sagebrush, calculating our every move.  
    We climbed a jagged crest and my Dad decided we should camp out there and drive the deer down to Cade and my Uncle.
    They agreed and took both four-wheelers while my Dad and I found a couple of rocks to sit on.  
    I turned into a statue of completion after that.  I stared at the rocky valley.  It looked like a million stoney goblins rested beneath us.  I saw a ravine where they camped, never moving or breathing.
    Staying still like that reminded me of when I'd been a window model.  I smirked.  And to think, some people had said I wouldn't like waiting in the cold!  I'd practically trained for that moment--when I'd get to sit and hang out with my Dad.
    I thought about the window modeling thing again.  I hadn't been the best.  The problem was that some people would actually think we were manikins.  We'd pose in two hour sets.  I'd pick something to stare at and then stay frozen there.  It's funny because I still remember what I stared at; it was the reflection of the TV against the glass across from us.  Anyway, people would come and point.  They'd say how amazingly real "the manikins" were and then just for the hell of it, I'd suddenly jerk my head and stare at them.  I think I almost gave one old Chinese lady a heart attack.  I did feel bad about it, but sometimes it was absolutely hilarious!   

(I'm the one on the bottom right; this was taken the year I met Cade and ran away to Hawaii.)

    Anyway, my Dad and I stayed there for hours, not even saying a word.  My butt did get sore after awhile, but that was a small price for magical coffee, good non-gossiping company, and the color of my clothes!  I grinned toward the rising sun as the wind ripped past and tugged at the orange mask on my face.  I couldn't believe how beautiful the valley was.
    "Look."  My Dad grabbed my arm and handed me the binoculars.  "There's a family of them over there."
    I peered through and he was right; just on the other side of the mountain three deer rested, a momma and two babies.
    "Are we gonna go after them?" I asked, my heart clenching.  I could do it!  I could kill the mama . . . maybe.  I could prove everyone wrong.  Sure I wanted jerky and steak; I wanted my Dad to think I was awesome, but at what price?
    "Nah," he suddenly said.  "They're too far away."
    The truth was that they weren't.  I studied my Dad.  I wondered if he was trying to protect me or if there was a side to him that I'd never seen.  It made me want to cry though because he's such a great guy.  And I think he sacrificed the chance for me. 
    That night when we were back at camp, we put down a few beers and I told my Uncle, "We could have shot that doe, my Dad and I could have, but . . ."
    He put his arm around me.  "Sometimes your Dad will even miss on purpose.  Maybe he didn't take the shot . . . for you."
    "I can't believe he'd do that."  I looked at my father.  He sat next to the fire and grinned, talking to Cade, as happy as he could be.
    "Don't feel bad, pumpkin," my Uncle said.  "The thing is that for some people, hunting's really about shooting the bull with friends and drinking good beer."
    I laughed so hard.  "Even though I like being warm and I used to model in heels, I guess I'm a hunter, born and raised."