My sweet dad.
Former Marine Corps helicopter pilot, awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross.
Hunter. The kind who tracks his prey and makes his own arrows.
He owned a motorcycle ever since high school and could tell you every little detail about how an engine works.
To say he’s a “guy’s guy” would be putting it lightly.
I find it ironic he ended up with three girls. At one point, our family consisted of my mom, my grandma, my sisters and me, and our dog…who was also a girl. Our household was a hot mess at all times but he took it all in stride. Kicked back with his martini and pipe, while the hormones flew.
When I was in third grade, he took me deer hunting. At that point in my life, the exposure I’d had to hunting was a few trips to the gun range, where my sisters and I would sit in the car and play Barbies, while he practiced. I had also witnessed my dad process several deer in our very own garage (which is definitely a story for another time). So I was not a total novice to the world of hunting and camping…but I think it’s safe to say I was not totally prepared for the experience either.
We set out on a Saturday morning to join a few of his buddies at a deer lease in north Texas. It was only for a night, but you better believe I packed like I was going to be gone for weeks. Doesn’t every young girl travel with her diary, Lipsmackers and enough clothes and shoes to change every hour? I’m pretty sure I brought along my Caboodle for my necessities too! For those of you who weren’t blessed to be children of the 80’s, a Caboodle is basically a pastel colored tackle box for all your beauty supplies…it was all the rage.
When we arrived at the lease, my dad drove his Subaru 4WD as far as he could. We had to hike the rest of the way. We loaded up all our gear in backpacks and set out for the longest hike I had ever taken. Looking back, it was probably only a mile or so. And by gear, I mean that my dad had all the things essential to hunting and I had all the things essential to staying busy and quiet for hours on end. Things like crayons, paper, books, stuffed animals, Barbies, and snacks. I’m pretty sure I even wrote a letter to my mom while we were there. My dad graciously put it in the mail the following day on our way back home.
Now, most hunters I know use a deer feeder to lure the deer to an area, making it virtually impossible to walk away from a hunt without meat in your freezer. I mentioned before my dad was a different breed. He would scout out a location by following deer tracks and scat and that day was no different. We were all camo’d up with our hunter’s orange vests. I’m sure, at some point, he probably sprayed deer urine on his clothes too.
We sat on a rock behind a large bush, where my dad waited, poised to shoot, for about 8 hours. He keenly watched the woods around us for any sign of an unsuspecting deer ready to walk into the open. I was keen on doing what my dad did and tried to be a good little hunter, but after about thirty minutes, I was digging through my backpack, looking for something to pass the time. And wouldn’t you know, that I needed to pee like nobody’s business.
Unfortunately, I was not brave enough to venture out into the woods to squat while the woodland creatures watched, so my back teeth were floating by 3:00 pm. I can remember saying to my dad at one point, “just tell me when you’re about to shoot,” because I knew it was going to be loud and I didn’t want to be surprised into losing control of my bladder. At dusk, a deer must have FINALLY come into sight, but I had no idea because I was off in the land of “Dear Diary.” And without warning, my dad let loose on the deer and I let loose in my pants. Once I started, I didn’t even try to stop.
The expedition didn’t end there…we had to go find the deer he shot. So there I was, traipsing through the woods in wet drawers, looking for a dead deer. Once we found it, my dad field-dressed it. That’s a nice way of saying, he gutted it…which is a lot for an eight year old girl to watch. Some things just can’t be unseen. My dad got the last laugh though, because the deer he shot was full of corn! Some other “hunter” is probably still out there in his deer stand, waiting for that plump deer to show up.
It was at that point my dad decided that it would be best to leave me out there, with the dead, gutted deer, while he hiked back to retrieve the car. I’m sure he was thinking that since I was drenched in pee, and mostly over the whole thing, that this would be the easiest option (for him, clearly).
What he didn’t take into account was the fact we were in the middle of someone’s lease where they also had a herd of cows roaming about. As I stood out there in the open with our kill, the sun began to set and I spotted the herd starting to move my way. Maybe it was the fact that I was drenched in pee or it was starting to get dark or the deer’s vacant eyes looking at me, but my nerves were frazzled and I had lost all sensibility. In an instant, I found myself surrounded by the herd of beasts and all I could do was whisper scream, “Daaaaaad!”, while sobbing uncontrollably. Now, you could try to reason with me by saying something about the fact that cows are fairly harmless and it could have, instead, been some predator, attracted to the bloody carcass I stood by. But to this day, the fear I experienced in that moment is something I’ve never been able to rationalize. To a kid, those cows were as big as (and mean as) a T-Rex and it seemed to take my dad an eternity to come back.
Obviously, he did come back and we returned to the campsite where the other hunters had gathered around the campfire to share stories. I’m sure after I went to bed that night, my dad shared our story with his buddies and they all had a good chuckle.
Looking back, he probably thought he was taking me hunting that weekend. Instead, it left me with one of my favorite memories of a special adventure with my dad.
“A great dad makes memories, goes on adventures, always puts his family first, makes sacrifices, is patient, always has time for his kids, is a great teacher, and loves his kids and their mother unconditionally.”