It’s been a long week. After having a friend try to commit suicide, a cousin being found on his kitchen floor after drinking himself to death, and hearing that another close friend’s newborn daughter may be developing severe neurological problems, I needed some time alone. So I chose Joshua Tree to spend this time, kicking up my feet as I overlooked a cut corn field, not always paying attention to what I was looking at. Needless to say, my thoughts were elsewhere.
There is a passage in an essay that I recently wrote entitled “Demons” that talks about these mornings. It reads: Sweat gets a hunter from 6:30 AM until he climbs into the deer stand until 6:45. Adrenaline as he watches a cut bean field lasts until a 7:15 sunrise. The warmth through his body, resonating to his toes, gets him until 7:30. And a steadily lighting field gets him to 8:00. By that time, the body has cooled, then warmed again, and it is settling in for the rest of the morning. If he has confidence in his location, the type of spot found in the deciduous forest bottoms along the Wolf River in Ashland, Mississippi, or the upland terraces of Louisville, Nebraska, he feels as if a buck will walk out at any moment and time marches fast. Yet if his confidence is low then his thoughts keep him in the stand. The more he thinks, the longer he can wait for a shot, despite the harm that can be caused to the soul if the hunt lasts much past sunrise.
Shortly after sunrise today, however, the day was mentally warmer than the past several days have been. And despite only seeing two deer nearly 300 yards away, three coyotes, and the same very curious and social squirrel, it was a new day. The demons, if ever so briefly, had subsided.
Yet the longer I hunted, the more I thought about the little girl, the more times I heard my mother call my cousin “a weak person” for not being able to control his drinking, and the more times I wondered how our friend was ever going to take care of herself when no one was there to hold her up.
So I opened John Grisham’s Theodore Boone, a kid’s book about an Encyclopedia Brown-type character who will inevitably save the day by page 260, just in time to give Grisham a few more pages to wrap up this case and set readers up for a future Boone story.
Yes, I was reading a kid’s book in the deer stand today. Yet I needed a few minutes to feel like a kid before the long, re-acclimating walk back to the truck forced me to be an adult again.
And that was my deer hunt today.