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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Autumn memories

Autumn always brings my hunting friends to mind.  
Most of them moved across the divide to what they call the happy hunting ground. I still think about them now, years later when I am just about as old as they were when we hunted.
Old Harry claimed he never shot a deer before 10 in the morning.  Even that would have been an early start on one of our hunting trips.  
I didn’t bother showing up at his house before 10. He would be still cooking breakfast. I would join him. 
It was a feast that could last for an hour or more depending on what was cooking. Ham, eggs, potatoes, toast, jam, canned plums and even pie all cooked on a giant wood cook stove that was the centerpiece of every pioneer kitchen. 
At some point breakfast would be over and Harry would begin to assemble his hunting wardrobe which did not include any raingear. Harry never hunted in the rain either. 
This seemed odd to me at the time. I always thought that being in the woods at daylight in the rain gave you the best chance of seeing game but I was young at the time and didn’t know any better. 
Fortunately I had enough sense to just shut up and drive.  
First Harry had to find his hunting hat. This was an insulated affair that looked like something Elmer Fudd would wear.  
One morning he put his hunting hat on and pulled it off and started beating it on the kitchen table.  There was a mouse inside. I thought that was a good sign. We were killing game before we even left the house. 
Harry lifted the lid on the cook stove and gave the poor critter a proper cremation.
“You can’t do that with one of those electric stoves.”  Harry would say in a pitying tone that felt sorry for those cursed to cook on one of those newfangled gadgets. 
Once the hat was secured it was time to find his rifle.  Harry’s rifle was a beat up piece of lever-action scrap metal by today’s standards.  It had iron sights.  There must have been enough rifling in the barrel to shoot straight since Harry got a deer every year with it. 
Once he had his rifle it was time to find some shells.  I never saw Harry with a whole box. He would always have two or three cartridges lying around somewhere, if he could just find them.  This was a challenge since once he found a cartridge or two he would have to find his knife.        
The blade on his hunting knife was a short little thing after being sharpened for 50 years or more.  He’d test the sharpness with his thumb which invariably led to another operation, finding the whetstone.  
There was no sense hunting with a dull knife and a proper sharpening took time.  By the time he got the knife sharpened it must have been almost noon. The deer would be in their beds. It was okay. Harry knew where the deer beds were. 
We headed up to a ridge in the foothills of the Olympics where the mushrooms were growing. 
The deer timed their migration out of the mountains to feed on the fresh crop that sprouted in the fall rains. Harry sat on a ridgetop and told me to circle down below.  He was using me for a bird dog. Not that it mattered when the crack of his rifle said we had some meat for the winter. 
It was good to be alive. 

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