Back on the stone wall…
It was really getting quite dusky now, time was not on our side. And my toes were starting to protest the cold. Dad however was still on point, showing absolutely no indications of discomfort or lack of concentration. But his eyes were definitely showing the look of impatience when he would more and more frequently turn his gaze away from the tree line and down toward his more and more fidgety son.
By now it was just too dark to continue hunting.
“Time to go home son.”
After ejecting the round from the chamber and removing the clip from the .308, it was safe to climb down from the rock wall.
On the way back to the pickup I feebly told Dad that I really enjoyed going hunting with him, although I had no idea if he felt the same way. I was really fishing, fishing for a reply in kind but none came.
Great I’m thinking. He knows I’m not ready for prime time and it’ll be a long time before he lets me come along again…if ever.
Even though it was a relatively short walk from the field to the pickup, by the time we got into the cab it was really quite dark. I guess I hadn’t realized how quickly the light was fading back there on the wall. Disregarding that small factor, I remember feeling a fair amount of guilt for my responsibility of spoiling the hunt. It just had to have been my fault that no deer had been taken on this cold November afternoon but I sure as heck wasn’t going to say anything about it. I was just going to sit quietly for the ride home in the warm cab of that old F-100. It wasn’t long before I was surrounded, and hopefully shielded by, a cloud of Prince Albert smoke, billowing from Dad’s pipe. Maybe if I was lucky I could just melt away into the smoke like a bell buoy fading from sight in a fog bank.
After a few minutes of silence Dad decided to break the ice and asked if I was disappointed that we didn’t “get our deer”.
Of course I was, but just accompanying him was one of my childhood dreams come true. I really didn’t know what to say, afraid of telling him the truth, afraid of saying the wrong thing and not ever going hunting with him again. But not waiting for my answer he simply said, “next time.”
And there was a next time and more after that. Some of those times Dad would bag a deer, sometimes not. But on one of those next times, even I would get one, my first. It’s one of “those”childhood memories, the ones that sear themselves into a young person’s mind. And along with that memory branded into my brain is the crystal clear image of the grin on my ol’ man’s face.