Monday, October 24, 2011

A Sunday at My House

Many parents approach Sundays with a certain amount of trepidation. It's usually the day that the children drop bombs such as "I need a dozen cookies", "My science project is due", or "I need my uniform". With a few deep breaths, then, we commence gathering resources to save our little charge from whichever impending doom threatens their existence.

For my household, our "bomb" arrived with a twist of delight. Saturday afternoon, just after learning how to make incredible apple pies, I got an excited call from my husband, "our son got his bull elk". We both laughed. It was opening day of rifle season and our eldest son had gone hunting alone in the area from which his father and grandfather had pulled many animals. We were delighted that he had demonstrated great skill and safety and that our freezer would soon be full. We were also anxious about what that meant for our immediate family schedule.

Soon enough it was clear that at least a half of a day needed to be set aside to collect horses, travel to the mountains and ride/hike in to the kill site. Normally, I just pack lunches and make a hearty dinner for the retrievers' return, but on this day, I was asked along.

Four-thirty is an especially early hour for me, a night owl. It was raining lightly besides...all good reasons to politely refuse the journey and crawl deeper under the down comforter. It was his FIRST solo hunt, however, and more hands would make light work, so... I downed my coffee while making breakfast burritos, packing sandwiches, fruit, and water.We drove off into the dark,horses in tow, clouds just lifting to show a blanket of stars and a crescent moon.

Rumbling to the trailhead, we quickly unloaded the horses and put on our bright orange vests. Heading up through aspen groves, over hills, and into the pines, daylight began to break. Our son was on foot, and well-ahead of us with the dog, so full of excitement and adrenaline!

We reached a too-steep point and I agreed to sit with the horses. It had continued to spit rain, so I was glad to have the opportunity to dry out in the new sunlight and to read quietly while they relocated the carcass. An HOUR later, they had looped around and were 100 yards from me! The bad news was that the goose-chase across the mountain had put my husband in a less than pristine mood for butchering. The great news was that we could get the meat loaded right on the horses and wouldn't have to drag anything out.

For the next couple of hours, butchering and loading commenced. As is often the case, spit spat between father and son peppered the activity (as anyone with a nearly 18 year old might appreciate). I am a sensitive soul, so you can imagine the emotional stress I incurred listening to the banter while helping ready the quarters (I am not a hunter, so blood and bone can be intimidating). We managed to take a break to eat our meager pb&j and talk about the landscape and great hunts past.

We led the horses out, a six on six rack proudly atop the load, talking with each hunting party we met. The sun, now having fully chased the clouds away, shone brightly on golden aspen groves, orange birch, and fragrant pine. Footing was slick, so what might have been a quick descent was slow and arduous, but with light hearts, it didn't seem too painful.

We rolled into the check station at four in the afternoon, a MERE 10 hours since we had first passed it in the early hours. As the biologist measured the various characteristics and interviewed our proud hunter, I felt as if I could crawl under the pickup and fall asleep, dead. I was hungry, (we should have packed at least two meals) tired, sore, and needing to get off my feet. I don't think I've seen a wider grin on my son or husband.

Even as I write, I can feel all the major muscle groups in my body. It is that feeling of accomplishment, however that keeps me smiling and not whining. Our son demonstrated that he, however imperfectly, can provide for himself. It is a proud, albeit Sunday, moment.

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