I think I packed about as much travel and adventure into last week as I have in a week in a long time. Miss Brenda and her folks drove to Houston the weekend before Thanksgiving to spend the week with my beautiful bride's ugly twin sister and her family, as has become somewhat of a tradition. In years past, all of our kids rallied in Houston as well, but this year that wasn't possible. Everyone was going to be with some family for the week, except for bachelor #2 son and I begged out of the trip to Houston with the excuse that he would be lonely if I didn't spend the week with him. To my surprise, everyone bought it.
We hit the road early Friday morning a week ago--they headed west and I headed north. I got to #2's house in North Mississippi in time to quickly change into hunting togs and slip into the woods near his home with my bow. #2 had given me orders not to shoot any young bucks, but to cull the doe herd a bit. Right at sunset I had a shot at a doe, and missed--twice! Not a very auspicious start to the week, but at least I was seeing deer.
We hunted hard the rest of the weekend and I finally dropped a mature doe Sunday evening at sunset for my first official deer with a bow and arrow. Anybody who thinks that deer hunting is not fair to the deer has never climbed three stories up a sweet gum, stood motionless for hours on a narrow platform strapped to the side of the tree, strained to tell the difference between squirrels bouncing around behind your tree and deer walking up behind you, moved ever-so-painstakingly slow to bring bow and knocked arrow into position for the draw, and fought the heart-pounding shakes off long enough to draw and hold a tiny sight pin steady on the four-inch square vital zone of an animal whose keen eyesight, hearing and sense of smell can pick up a gnat-fart in a cotton-ball at forty yards. And, all of the pre-shot exertions are the easiest part of a successful hunt. Lucky for me I had a son in the woods with me who thinks I'm too old to be dragging a deer out of the woods by myself. It is heartwarming to realize that he cares more about having me around to hunt with than having me drop dead and turn over his (meager) inheritance.
Monday morning required me to transition from camouflage-clad apex forest predator to business-suited corporate consultant and abandon my retreat in the back-woods of Mississippi for a flight from Memphis up into enemy territory. A night in a hotel room in Chicago is as close as I want to get to spending time in a POW camp. Following a three hour meeting the next morning (for which my client is paying an embarrassingly large sum for the kind of work I did as a second lieutenant), I boarded the next available flight for Southern sanity and escaped O'Hare before the Thanksgiving travel crush of inhumanity began.
Two more days of standing motionless in the tops of trees, broken only by a respite in which #2 and I swallowed a nine pound turkey whole (at least that's what it felt like afterwards), resulted in plenty of deer seen--but no shots. Friday evening at sunset, a cow-horn spike buck (one that #2 wanted culled from the gene pool because of its inferior antlers) stepped into the open 20 yards stage left and proved Darwin's theory of the survival of the fittest. He was laying motionless on the field when I finally climbed down out of my tree and began the long walk in the dark back to #2's house. When we got back to the field 30 minutes later, the deer was gone. No blood trail. It was as if Sasquatch had picked the deer up and walked away with it. We looked for sign in the dark for the next hour and then gave it up for the next morning's light. In the woods at daybreak, we found him several hundred yards away, where Sasquatch got tired of carrying him.
It being the Saturday after Thanksgiving (and we had tickets for the most bitter rivalry in college sports--Ole Miss and Mississippi State), we hustled the deer to the local venison processor, cleaned up, and headed to the home of hot beer and cold women--Lafayette County, Oxford, and the most gracious college campus in all of American academe. Under a cloudless sky and a perfect 68 degrees, we watched two 3 and 8 teams play a game that meant nothing to the rest of Division I, but meant everything to the state of Mississippi. My Rebels put in dominating performances against Georgia, Alabama, LSU, and Auburn this year only to fail to find a way to win. Against State, they did just the opposite. State dominated the line of scrimmage, time of possession, and total yards and yet the Blue and Red found a way not to lose--20 to 17--and took home the coveted Golden Egg. It was a special day for me--strangely enough, it was the first Egg Bowl I had been to since I became a Rebel 32 years ago.
Sunday morning, I strapped my pick-up to my backside and began the long drive back to my exile on the Redneck Riveria. Seven and a half hours (and several alternate developed plans for escaping the world of sand and sea oats for the world of hills and hay) I was back in Florida.
An hour later I was in a church business meeting, day-dreaming of deer and Rebel cheerleaders.