It is five a.m.
The hunters begin to rouse in my house. The alarm clocks buzz and the toilets flush. Like mice in my country cabinets there is shuffling, clunking and the ‘click’ of light switches on and off. When I smell the coffee I climb out of my warm bed and wander into the kitchen in my old housecoat where men in orange have gathered, their rifles on the dining room table and shells in their pockets to share that last cup of coffee before they head for the woods and fields. There is a familiarity in the wool pants and socks and their orange coats that takes me back forty-five years.
I used to be the first one up. I loved the preparations for the hunt and the anticipation of the day. Ron made breakfast for all of us. The kids and I packed our lunches and stuck candy bars and parafin dipped matches in our pockets for emergencies. Everyone reviewed the list of stuff you need; your extra shells, the rifle clip, gloves, hand warmers, a compass and extra truck keys. You checked the weather and temperature and by sticking your nose outside and then went back and changed again. Men, women and kids bundled up and excited, headed out to stand silently in the woods for hours, if need be, to get a quick shot and bag next winter’s dinner.
Perhaps it is the swaggering confidence of we who will provide meat for the winter that is attractive. I enjoyed how we planned our drives through the woods like generals on the battlefield. Maybe it is the sense of camaraderie as we review past hunting exploits; the trophies, our mistakes and near misses. Maybe it is the time we take to renew old friendships and think about days gone by. I miss all of this. I am so sad. This year I will participate but not carry a rifle, again. For me the cold is agony and the difficult forest hiking equals a week of pain. Tendonitis in my shoulder limits my ability to lift and aim my weapon. Later on, depending on the temperature, I will dress warmly and attempt to help drive the herd in the woods. I will sit here and reflect with a smile and a second cup of coffee on the good times we had and the fragrant memories of the past.