Connecting generations of hunters

Feb. 18, 2013 @ 06:49 PM

She was once blonde and young, and her skin was warm and with life. Now she is old, shuffles to walk, takes long naps, and her skin is thin, white and cold.
It has been 10 years since a man last held her palm. It is Friday, and her friend will be here soon to help tease the sleep from her hair.
It is cold outside and her neck is wrapped tight beneath a pink scarf, which was a gift from a young couple at the church.
They tour places when they go out to eat on a Friday. Today is country-style steak day at the restaurant 12 miles from her home.
She knows all of the fields, all the homes and every curve in the road.
She shuffles on the way to sitting near the wall, second booth on the right. The news is on, but she does not watch.
Instead, her eyes focus through her thick glasses, and she sees a man talking to his boy. They are hunters, and he is daddy’s boy.
When this man was younger, the man that let loose of her palm, held tight to his hand, teaching him the way of a hunter.
He stands when he notices her. He leans and hugs her neck, and the pink scarf feels soft against his cheek.
How long has it been? How are you? You look great. Who is this? And I remember when you were this tall, once.
The boy listens closely, as her voice is soft. She rests her hand on the table, then reaches for the hand of this boy.
Pulling him close as ladies do, she says: “Your daddy is a fine man. He was also a good friend to my husband.”
She talked with him, and her voice sparked. She sipped from the glass of tea when her cough interrupted her speech. She told of how his father came to their place to watch the happenings of a small farm in a small town, 12 miles from this second booth on the right.
“He was young, about your age,” she said.
They had no children, and a niece was far enough away to only visit when someone came this way.
“So your daddy was like a son to us,” she said.
She told this boy of how his father wanted to learn to hunt and shoot. She told him that her husband took time with him, spending hours and days together.
“He taught him to recognize the tracks in the mud, the birds in the sky, the trees that stay green and there is warmth beneath them, where the fish bit when the wind blows from the east, where trails begin and how to get lost in the woods at night so that you can be found on your own,” she said.
There were many firsts and special days, and even when nary a shot was fired or a hook set, they enjoyed the moments that transitioned day to night and night to day.
Then she pulled him close, as a lady does when she wants to tell a boy something special.
“Now, your daddy is a man and he is a good hunter, I know,” she said. “But your daddy is also very soft and gentle, as a man should be. When my husband lay sick, it was your daddy that placed his hand in his and held it tight. He was too weak for voice. Yet your daddy talked as hunters do. He told of stories and tales and he recounted lessons and moments and hunts that were special to old hunters like my husband.”
She paused for a moment.
“Slow down,” she said. “He told my husband to slow down. He said, you taught me well. You taught me the way and I know the tracks in the mud and the birds in the sky and the trails where they begin and I know that before you can be found, you must be lost and like the moment between day and night and night and day, this is the moment to slow down.
“I married a hunter.”
The boy looked into the eyes of this lady. She looked away, then she looked into his eyes.
“Your daddy is a hunter, and when he says to slow down, listen,” she said.
When it was time to leave, she stood from the second booth on the right. The boy watched her.
When his hand gripped tight into her palm, she looked to him and she smiled, as an old lady will when a young boy holds her hand. She began to walk towards the door.
Her steps were uncertain, and she paused.
The boy looked into her eyes and squeezed her hand and he said, “Slow down.”
She squeezed his hand and adjusted the scarf around her neck, then she shuffled toward the door.
Upon reaching the door, she looked to the boy’s father and she said: “I married a hunter, and a hunter you became.”
Enjoy your time outdoors.

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