Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Back to the Beginning

Thoughts from a Hunting Journal
(Part VIII)
     Before our new farm, and during those Tioga years, we still chased birds in Jersey and deer in upstate NY.  Pheasant hunting will always be the same, with different characters coming and going.  Stress Mt., NY will always be a source of stories.  The ice years, the years of short sleeves, building sheds in snow squalls, ATV riding in the dark, three-legged deer, Tara seeing and shooting at her first buck, Tony killing his first (a five-point), my first turkeys, night stalking Dad's doe, losing my handmade hunting knife inside Dad's five-pointer, tornadoes in the valley and the epic adventure that followed that twister, the Port-a-John with a view, and my wedding on the mountain.  Some great dreams were hatched back then and some of my greatest memories were made.  That mountain was magic and every moment there was special.  Apex Trucking and the boys from work invaded a couple of times, and still talk about those misadventures.  Memorial Day and Labor Day were weekends that were planned for all year long.  The hunting seasons were more like Christmas.  Once the small house was put in place and the deck built, the kids watched us hunt from the sliding door.  The snow flew, the wind howled, the kids (Madison mostly) pressed their noses to the windows, and we hunted.
     As the memories mounted on top of that hill, our family grew, our dreams grew bigger, and our search for a new, larger tract of land began.  Who would have known?  In hindsight it was clear it was coming.  But with that one resonating shot at Tioga, as the cow elk fell, so did alot of our plans.  With that elk, crumpled at the edge of the fence line, the last shot was fired on our days and trips to Tioga.  After that hunt the taxidermist and butcher we had befriended five years earlier hastily, almost sloppily, churned our efforts into groceries.  He turned our capes over to a new "friend" taxidermist that quickly proceeded to go out of business and take our possessions with him.  Chester and Danny, who always wanted receipts for the groceries and were allergic to sweat and effort, faded from the scene.  Drew, the smoking machine and bane of scent control, lasted long enough to see a bear and then "poof".  Steve M. got old and tired and cranky.  He called it quits when I traded my $70 NJ license and two pheasants for $80 and a 12 bird guided hunt in PA.  Jason, my brother, lingers on the fringe.  He pops in on rare occasions to pretend and play at hunting and fishing, and then he's gone again.  Dusan, isolated and lonely, drank himself into staying home.  Tony and Patty lasted the longest.  His dream of having a real hunting cabin on the opposite side of the property in the valley was one of the reasons we liked our new place.  His dream, however, did not consist of cutting and splitting firewood for that cabin.  In his dream, the trees alongside the trail to that cabin grew away from the trail and policed their own branches.  To all of them, treestands hung themselves and firing lanes simply appeared in the woods, trail cameras walk themselves to scouting areas.  The best part of hunting (and owning a hunting property), the preparation and anticipation, was not part of the picture.  And so, everyone got married, got cold, got old, and lost sight of the most important hunting/fishing/outdoor element: family.
     None of us truly parted ways even though there is a chasm separating us.  There's still times that we get together, all or some of us, and pretend play at hunting as if we were 10 again with sticks as guns.  We'll spend a day or two, have a beer, relive old days gone by, tell the same tales over and over again, laugh and say our good-byes.  In some ways it is quite tragic.  In others, I guess it is the natural way of things.  And so the story of Stress Mt. fades into history and the story of our PA place, Triple F Farm, begins.

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