Memories stored in a cedar chest

Dec. 12, 2012 @ 07:58 PM

Some look at photographs, some visit familiar places and some read letters from the past.
He opens the lid of the cedar chest. It has been long enough, yet it seems like it just occurred. He remembers the day of the week, the date, the time and the words of peace and feelings of anger and loneliness.
The chest was where he kept his things. where early mornings afield began and where a day’s hunt would end.
The chest was sturdy enough for a young boy to sit upon while fatherly hands tied laces tightly. It was crafted by hand, the nails were countersunk and the hinges squeaked when the chest lid was opened.
Some people eat a favorite slice of pie in memory. He wears his gloves.
The emotions did not flood him when his cold hands followed the worn paths and found his favorite hunting gloves. Instead, the emotions kept him buoyant.
He noticed the blood stains in the gloves and recalled that his father’s hands easily bled.
He wore the gloves when they followed beagles into a tangle of briars, when he reached for the collar of a coonhound and when the nip of winter was sharp.
He wore the glove because they remind him and the memories and his fingers are warmed, too.
Some people hum a favorite tune. He wears his knife that is as iconic as the memories, and he remembers the hours he stared at the knife. He marveled that his father wore a knife, like frontiersman of a century ago.
The knife was good for slicing apples while waiting for deer to show, and it was even better for removing tenderloin when a deer did show. He skinned deer, rabbit, squirrel, turkey, geese and duck. He cut lengths of cord and briars from the path, whittled sticks and shaved the hair on his arm after sharpening.
Some people reflect in the shadows. He wears his hat.
His father would say: “A good hat doesn’t fade; it evolves into the person who wears it.”
He holds the hat, which is loose on his head, and he looks at the pictures affixed to the underside of the cedar chest lid. There are 27 photographs, and in 17 pictures, his father is wearing this same hat.
He wore the hat to hunt, when he walked and when he fed or worked the dogs. He wore the hat when it was early in the afternoon and the sun warmed his body.
Even now, he can see the hat on the horizon of a day or in the hollows of a wood lot, and he knew that beneath the brim of a hat was a man taller than life. He wears the hat because the memories evolve, too.
He buttons all the buttons on the flannel shirt with long johns underneath. It was a gift, and the colors once were bright and the lines of flannel were crisp. It was mostly red, grey and brown — and it was the last pattern many animals saw when he shouldered a gun to his right shoulder.
The shirt was not routinely washed. The buttons on the right sleeve were replacements; the originals had torn while crossing a barbed wire fence. The shirt smelled of coffee, old dogs, dirt and his father’s scent. And it smelled of the cedar chest, too.
He wears the shirt because it reminds him, and the colors of his father’s presence will never fade.
Some people read a poem, verse, quote or cards. He sips hot chocolate from the green thermos, which has a silver cup that is dented. The body of the thermos is worn and scratched.
If he hunted alone, his father would fill the thermos with beef broth with black pepper and chunks of bacon for flavoring. If he hunted with him, it was hot cocoa or apple cider. The thermos kept them warm whether in hunting blinds, against the base of a tree or on the tailgate of the truck.
He drinks from the thermos because it reminds him and provides sustenance in memory, too.
Some people succumb.
He opens the lid of the cedar chest. He wears the gloves. He wears the hat. He looks at the photographs. He clinches the knife. He buttons the buttons. He drinks from the thermos.
The chest was where he kept his things. Now, the chest is where he keeps his father’s things and memories, too.
Enjoy your time outdoors.

You may contact Jason Hawkins at hawkinsoutdoors@msn.com.