Sharing the routine of father-son hunting

Jan. 07, 2013 @ 05:58 PM

It was routine. His son is tucked beneath a blanket, a quilt and a sheet. Darkness and only the faint glow of a nightlight provides a source for shadows.
His son’s hand is resting in his, and he whispers to him as fathers whisper to sons. His breath is that of mint, and his voice soft and deep.
“Go and rest and find wonder in your dreams tonight,” he said.
His son whispers back: “Will it be a long walk, like you said, Daddy?”
He squeezes his young man’s hand, rubs his fingers through his smooth hair and says, “Rest now, my boy.”
There is music and the sound of sausage cooking as he hears the steps before his son stands in the entrance to the kitchen. He pauses for a moment and does not immediately speak.
Instead, he looks over his young hunter and sees that he is dressed with his shirt tucked and his pants cinched with a belt that holds the sheath for a knife. Even on a day to be spent in the woods, his son’s hair is parted to the left.
They eat well — sausage, eggs, buttered bread, blackberry jam and berry muffins, too.
Soon, boots are laced, jackets buttoned, hats pulled tight and they step into the morning. As promised for weeks, today they are going to the place he hunted as a boy.
They will walk into the expanse of woods that exists beyond the fields. It is here where tall nut trees shield four large, decaying trees from the elements of nature and the burn of the sun.
They walk farther into the woods, as he leads his son and they are the only noise about these woods today. They are here because the squirrels are here, too. They are here because it is the time of year that fathers lead their sons into the woods, and they point a common squirrel rifle into the treetops because this place is abundant with game and nuts.
They stop against the base of an old oak tree. All is quiet and still, and the cold of the day is not felt because they are warm from their walk. He moves the leaves, displaces the sticks and gestures his son to sit.
His knees are up, the rifle is across his lap and his eyes look beyond the trees and the sky. In the middle of nowhere, he feels the love from his father everywhere and there is nowhere he would rather be than where they are now.
His father sits beside him with his legs against the ground, and he looks ahead to where darkness is becoming light because of the sun.
He knows where he is and that he could be anywhere, yet this is where he promised to be on a day when love is everywhere.
They wait. They are still and patient as they wait. As is customary, it is the smallest of birds that breaks the silence of darkness before more join in song.
“Easy, they will come,” he says with a whisper.
They are patient and observant, and they are together as a team — father and son as hunters together, custodians of the creed that becomes those who share, love and respect each other.
The first shot is good, though the next series of shots are tougher. Some are good and others miss, and there are moments of squirrels here and there and moments of squirrels nowhere to be found.
They stand, sit, lean, creep and kneel, and when four squirrels become the final ingredients to the stew that soon waits, they walk and retrace.
It is after lunch and the chores are done. The fireplace is warm as they replay the day and talk of the good shots and wonder of those that missed.
When it is late for young hunters that rise before the sun, the routine begins again. Alongside his boy, he rests for a moment.
They live in a house that is near somewhere that others might call nowhere, yet it is here that love and learning and the steps a young hunter takes begin and end.
His voice is soft and deep as a father’s voice should be. Through the window, he sees the stars.
In his arms he feels the result of a promise, the effort of a long walk and the skill of shots that were good and others that were almost good.
It was routine and, thankfully, it will always be routine.
Enjoy your time outdoors.

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