I was five sitting on the counter in the yellow kitchen my mother made. I don't know why she made it yellow, but the yellow rooster plates are still etched in my mind, as if I were still eating my poached eggs on wheat toast off of them. We were packaging venison. The white paper and, more importantly, the white tape seemed so clean. Not a few days before, I watched through the back window as my father spoiled the pristine virginity of the snow and my consciousness by dragging his kill across it, like some hunter displaying his victory in front of all the community members. I don't remember eating the venison, I just remember its soft, bloody flesh as we packaged it to freeze.
We are not hunters. Paul Bunyan and me. We hunt for firewood and lichen in the woods, and sometimes we find a few of our spawn hiding behind trees or rocks. I've hunted for missing cats and dogs who've run away. But I've never hunted an animal to kill.
Hunting season opened here in Vermont on Saturday. It's a big deal for most. For us it means we get to drive 5 miles down the road for three weekends this month and have a fresh cooked Hunter's breakfast served to us in the Baptist church annex. It's convenient, cheap, and delicious. Fresh baked bread? Local eggs and maple syrup? No dishes? Uhm, yea.
Hunting season also means more traffic on our small little dirt road. Lots of Fords and Chevys driving up and down. There are a few hunting camps on our hill:
This one is sagging in the middle. And it would be all right with me if it miraculously burned down some predawn morning. And no one would be able to trace it back to me, except now I mentioned here that I wanted it gone...so pretend I didn't say that.
And this one is so much cuter and tucked a little bit further back into the woods but I still can't understand how it can fit the large men who drive the large Fords and Chevys up the hill. There are usually four or five trucks parked in the driveway. But then again, now that I think about it, there are usually two or three men mulling around on the porch, probably forced out the door by the stench of the venison farts.
Yesterday we walked up to meet our new neighbor. The horse, that is. This is Peeter's Baby Bea Belle, straight from Petticoat Junction. She's right out of a storybook and at 16 hands tall we're expecting great sled rides this winter from this Percheron. Our trails will be packed and ready big girl!
And I don't think I've ever introduced you to Spring the cow. Kelly and her husband Randy are the true homesteaders on the hill and she milks this momma every morning and every evening; unless, of course, she's about to give birth. And then everybody gets a little break.
The first hunting season we lived in this house we heard a shot ring out very close to the homestead. The boys were three months old at the time and my protective forces kicked in. I heard some whooping and hollering from the woods and started to hike in their direction. I didn't have to get too far up the trail when I came upon the hunters. They looked a little scared that I was approaching despite their general excitement at having tracked and killed a six point buck. It turned out to be our neighbor, "who had been hunting this land for years". I was angry that she hadn't asked for permission to hunt on our property, which is the etiquette here in Vermont; BUT, our land isn't posted and so by law, we can't be too upset. One of these days I will get those signs up on our property lines "Hunting by permission of the landowner ONLY!" Someday I will.
A few years ago a man was shot dead here in Vermont during hunting season. He was sitting in his favorite recliner, probably sipping on his favorite beverage, most likely watching his favorite t.v. show. Shot dead by a hunter who missed his target. The bullet went right through the house.
Last night at 4 p.m. I heard another reverberation of a gun shot. I slipped my jacket on and stood on the porch to see if I could hear whooping and hollering, the victory of the hunt. Nothing. Just the whimper of Miss Liebe on the other side of the door. She wanted to come outside with me. But this is the time of day when the accidents happen. When hunters shoot each other or kill dogs who were mistaken for deer.
Miss Liebe got a new collar for her birthday, which happens to be today. It's orange.
And she gets to wear her pretty party dress these days. It's orange too.
Hunter safety. It's an important lesson for all, even if we're not hunters. Because this girl...she's gotta lotta life left in her and I don't want her shot dead sitting in her favorite green chair, chewing on her favorite toy, waiting for her favorite person to come home.