Sunday, November 27, 2005

Deerslayer-5

The last time I went to my father's deer stand was after his death.

I was a senior in college. For old time's sake, I used the family key to gain entry to the scout reservation, even though I am sure the caretaker would have let me in without a quibble. That day, I had no particular worries about being caught, and thought it fitting to follow tradition one last time.

I parked the truck in our usual place, and walked about a quarter mile along a two-tracked road. The deer stand was largely as I remembered it from 4-5 years earlier, the last time I had hunted there with my father. The stump had decayed, and, because I went there long after the snow had melted and the weather had warmed, the "look" of the bottleneck was different than I remembered. It was more inviting, more pleasant, and the lakes were bluer than they ever looked during deer season. The winds were stronger that day as well. That wouldn't have boded well during season.

I surveyed the field of fire. I took another look at the lakes. I listened for deer. I looked up at the sky and down at the leaves. My heart pounded. I stared at the stump for a very long time and thought of our times in those woods.

And then I squatted down and poured my father's ashes on the base of the stump, careful to block them from the wind. I stared at his ashes and I listened for his distinctive whistle, the whistle he used while hunting, hoping I might hear his ghost in those woods, hoping for one final sign of his presence, and perhaps his approval.

There was to be no whistle.

I tried very hard not to cry, but I failed.