Growing up in Greenwood Center, Maine, probably was not the most exciting, but with the coming of the fall’s crispness and gathering of apples, one could feel what could only be described as a zing of excitement with hunting season closing in.
This was way before the days of flourescent clothing and Dad’s red and black plaid heavy jacket hung on the peg behind the woodstove just waiting for that first fog shrouded morning when the calendar said “it’s time!”
Oh, the planning that went into each venture. Chairs were pulled around the kitchen table, heads bent low as Dad penciled a map where each man was to go. Some would “drive”, others would be standing here and there. I will preface this by saying, I was the only one in the room who did not participate in hunting nor even understand what was going on. As we “kids’ grew into teenagers, my mother even joined the foray and enjoyed every minute of wandering the mountains. This was almost beyond my comprehension when most of her life was working in local mills and for any enjoyment, sitting behind her sewing machine. She now had a gun and was joining forces with all these men! Unbelievable.
The kitchen air was so full of cigaret smoke that it hung like smog over a city. It was part of the whole game plan. No one thought about lung damage, unfortunately, or any serious health hazard. The smoke was as much a part of the planning as my mother’s new glass coffee pot perking on the woodstove. That glass coffee pot almost caused a casualty..and it had nothing to do with the hunting whatsoever.
Dad had completed a good share of what was to be the next morning’s hunt and decided he would have a bit more caffeine to brighten his outlook. He did what he described as a “Canadian Clog” learned in the potato fields of northern Maine, to the stove, grabbed the pot, filled his cup and clogged back to the stove, only to mis -calculate the height of the stove. There was quite the clang and bang with my mother running top speed, but Pyrex must have made them sturdy. The brand new glass coffee pot was intact as was my Dad’s head after that near catastrophe.
As with most young men, my two older brothers often had late nights prior to an early morning hunt. When I say early, I mean before the sun is up and my Dad behind the wheel of his car, gun by his side ready to roll. One morning he tracked a deer or perhaps got a shot at one ..so many years ago I forget the details, but he came ripping back to the house. My brothers were still snug in bed, blankets to their chins. This was just not done..not in hunting season. Up the stairs Dad bounded, yanked both out of bed, exclaimed in as few words as possible the position he was in and that they had to get up and at it immediately. I cannot relate what happened after that, only for years after, one of my brothers mentioned he was on top of a mountain hunting, glanced down and he was wearing his “dress shoes” from the night before. Hunting was serious.
As much as I disliked seeing the dead deer, I realized at an early age, it was necessary to shoot and use all the meat. It got us through the winter and we were taught to say nothing…if we did not like to look at the dead deer, don’t look. Period. Even knowing that, I shared in the excitement of seeing the car come in the driveway and if the trunk was a bit ajar, running with the rest to see if there was a deer in there.
When the time came for flourescent clothing, most men were downright disgusted at the flaming oranges etc. Over the years it was accepted and has probably saved a lot of lives. There was only one time when my Dad came home, ashen faced and looking a bit scared. Come to find out, someone had shot in his direction. He hit the ground after just the one shot. When he decided it was safe, he got up and found the bullet hole in the tree next to where he was standing. His one remark was “Damn out -of-stater”. It could have been his neighbor, but so much easier to blame it on someone with a strange number plate on his car.
There is nothing better than a mince pie made out of real mince meat ; my mother took the meat and ground it for what seemed forever. I remember the sizzle of the steak as Dad cut it from a hind quarter and tossed it in the hot frying pan. We seldom called it venison; it was deer meat. It has been a long time since I’ve had meat like that. I did have some about twenty years ago from a friend in Vermont and it tasted like beef to me and someone said it was because they grazed with the cattle in the fields. Now, that to me, is not deer meat. Deer meat has to be earned..you get up before dawn, run yourself ragged, eat track soup most of the season and if you’re lucky, on the last day, you get your deer and pose with the tag in the ear.
I could never bring myself to hunt; but the memories of hunting season bring a special feeling.