Hunting season meant survival for you and Henry. Food in the cold of winter, venison stew with roasted potatoes and turnips you grew in your garden. Pumpkins were for eating, not decoration as they stored well through the long season.
But I wonder, did Henry celebrate it’s arrival as my father and brothers still do? Did he oil his gun and load his shot in the weeks just before that blessed day arrived? I’ll take a flight if you don’t mind… and paint a picture of some 70 years ago.
The leaves were long gone, even the color on the ground had faded to brown. And cold, Rosa shivered, this cold meant the blasted rain would be converted to something coveted by her husband.
Cold would bring the snow and snow meant the deer would leave tracks.
She’d risen early that morning to see Henry off. He’d need a good breakfast to get through the long day ahead. Pancakes with the syrup they’d put up that spring and ham from the pig they’d just slaughtered. Everything on their table was grown or raised by their hands. There was just no other way…
The front door opened and she heard Henry’s simple greeting.
Henry, her son-in-law, answered, “It will be if we both get a buck.”
She heard their quiet chuckles.
More would come soon so she hurried to set the table. Freddie, her brother and Earle, Everett, Roger and Hiram, her grandsons, were to work together today.
“Morning, Rosie.” Henry stopped inside the door. “You’re looking pretty, and just look at this spread-” Her son-in-law could be such a sweet talker.
“Shush now and come sit down.” she softened the harsh tone a bit. Mary’s husband was not her favorite. A marriage that had driven two families apart – and how could she like the man? All arrogant, as if the Ferrys were something more than the Blairs…
She let the thought drift away when the door opened and her grandsons arrived. A special hunt this was, what with it being little Hiram and Roger’s first.
Breakfast was consumed with the talk of strategy.
“We’re to go to Dole Hill. I’ve set a stand there amongst the apple trees.” Her Henry would be the leader, she thought with pride. Her Henry always got a deer. Freddie would too if he’d just let off that damn bottle for a minute…
“We’ll leave Henry and the two youngest lads there and drive the deer to them.”
Roger squirmed in his seat at that. He’d chafe against the word “youngest” – wasn’t he eleven now? Rosa turned to the dishes to hide her smile. A fierce little man, Roger was short but stocky and probably would be the strongest of his lot one day…
“I’d go with you, sir.”
Henry met Roger’s intense blue eyes.
“No son, not this year. Hiram needs you close by. Next year you can join the drive team.”
He’d not argue, he couldn’t. No one challenged the quiet authority of her husband.
“Right,” he continued and drew a map on the table with his finger. “We’ll head off in different directions – you, Freddie to the west, Earle takes south, Everett the east and I’ll come from the north. Together we’ll move in and drive them to the center – to the stand.”
Each knew the task assigned, each understood the first deer taken would be Henry’s. If they were lucky this season, enough meat would be provided for the three families on Summer Street. If not, well, Rosa knew they’d share as much as they could.
“We’re off then.” Henry gave her a quick peck. “Thanks for the breakfast, love.”
“Go on with you,” Rosa pushed him away. There’d be no room for familiarity when surrounded by the grandsons.
As she watched them leave though, she whispered a silent prayer. For a bountiful harvest and safety and such. That her boys would all return home, tired, a bit cold, and successful. Tomorrow, God willing, there’d be a deer or two to dress in the front yard. One that would sustain them through the endless, brutal winter that was to come.