Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Deer Hunter's Son

(editor's note: I've been mulling over this post since November.  Time to therapeutically write it down. -CMM)

Zachary was so excited about going hunting.  Where did this excitement come from?  From video games?  From a friend? Maybe he has the hunter's gene.
The hunting gene in me is recessive.  My father did a great job of raising me as a hunter.  Our family has a long tradition of hunting told many times in many stories.  I spent many weekends trekking out to a lease  or friend's ranch to hunt whatever was in season.  I knew early on that it didn't interest me; but I went anyway in order to bond with (and further understand) my dad (more on that general subject later [we meet in the middle]).   Hunting in Texas largely revolves around waking up for the morning hunt long before dawn; killing time all day; and then hunting late afternoon to past sunset.  While I appreciate hunting and it's inherent connection to the natural world, I have never been drawn to the kill.  I am perfectly content to observe and occasionally take a shot with a camera.  Some of my most vivid memories are sitting in a tree stand watching the world around me wake up.  I just don't feel the need to take a life from that world. While I feel that my dad is disappointed, I think he tries to understand (that meet in the middle thing again).  It is a part of me, made me what I am- I just don't actively use the skills.
Due to the cost of a hunting lease, I had not been deer hunting since I turned 18 and got kicked off dad's lease.  I had resigned hunting to memories in my past.  But Zachary and an opportunity would bring it back to the present. Zachary was six and was expressing an interest in hunting.  I think it stemmed from his new found interest in guns brought on by cartoons and " fighting bad guys." If hunting allowed him to shoot something, then he was all for it.   Of course his Papa was very excited at this prospect.
Zachary and Papa just after target practice.  Note the ecstatic grin.
Last thanksgiving (2011), the Bakers invited us to their ranch for a hunt to cull some older doe and genetically inferior bucks.  This would be Zachary's opportunity to "ride along" and learn.  I have to admit that I panicked a bit.  After twenty years, would I be able to pass on anything useful and respectable to him?  Maybe I should stay back and let papa take him.  I decided that it was my job as father to be the one to take him.  So we loaded up early Saturday morning and made the 1 1/2 hour drive to arrive at the ranch before sunrise.
Zachary was too excited to sleep.  So- all the way there, dad, Todd, and I advised him all we could to prepare him.  Be quiet.  Be still.  Follow my lead.  You are just watching this time.  If I pinch your arm, freeze.  Move slow.  You might get cold.  Etc.  Zachary took it all in and got really pumped. We got to the "sendera" blind just in time.

got into the blind juuust barely in time
Dad and Todd pulled away after we settled in.   Zachary did incredibly well in the blind.  He would make Papa really proud.  And the ranch did not disappoint*.  Near immediately, doe and trophy whitetail came in all over the place.  I should mention that the Baker ranch is a managed lease- it has a high fence so that it's population can be monitored and improved through selective harvesting.   The end result is that the average deer on the ranch would make most hunters heads spin.  We would be selectively harvesting today.   
While I had explained ahead of time what was allowed to be killed and what was not, Zachary could not wait for me to shoot something.   The older crafty does quickly left, leaving only young does and trophy deer.  Thus- my opportunity came and went pretty quickly.  Not good for the boys' mood.
We heard some shots in the distance; followed by a text from my dad checking up on us.  Really? A TEXT.  From my DAD.  In the DEER BLIND!  A lot has changed in twenty years.  I guess I should have been blogging on the fly from there.

well- if dad can call; I can take a phonecam pic

With the opportunity for a kill gone, Zachary settled down and got cold.  So- we came down from the blind and walked around a bit until Papa came to pick us up. Z was completely down for the rest of the morning.  The fact that Dad had bagged 1 deer and Todd had bagged 2 didn't help matters.  Zachary started to come around with an "Ewww gross!" as we cleaned the deer.  I think he would have poked the guts with a stick had the smell not driven him away.  He just sat in the back seat of the truck watching through a closed window.
The rest of the family came to visit for the daytime hours.    We had a good time exploring the ranch even though the wind had turned blistering cold.  When the afternoon approached, we debated whether to go ahead and go home or to stay for the evening hunt.  Because Zachary was so disappointed about not getting anything, I decided we should stay.  We're already here, right?  
Dad dropped us off at the sendera blind again, figuring it was still the best location for teaching a fidgety 1st grader how things are done.  Just as before,the deer came in relatively quickly.  An eleven point buck kept hanging around like he owned the place; looking after his harem of yearling does.  They all startled a bit; and then went back to eating.  Come to find out, an old crafty doe was circling the clearing to scope things out.  She finally came in.  Right in front of the 11 point.  It's almost like she knew that would  protect her.**  In order to not disappoint z again, I got ready.  Gun in position. Settling in to scope her.  Taking off safety.  Warning Z.  Z promptly goes fetal in the bottom of the blind to guard against the sound.  Just me and the doe now.  Old 270- don't fail me now.  I squeeze the trigger***.
Either the scope was off (not sighted in for 20 years), or my aim was off ( untested for 20 years), or the doe moved ( that has to be it) because I hit her high.  I was aiming for the heart ( easier) but ended up clipping her backbone ( harder but cleaner kill).  This paralyzed her from the shoulders down.  Zachary was so excited, he wanted to jump down immediately.  I told him to wait to see if she got up again; but it was obvious she could not stand.  Zachary won out; we started out toward the doe.  I had another shell in the chamber just in case she jumped up.    She was still as we approached.  When we got close, we discovered she was fully alert but resting.  She started to scramble to try to get away.  We were way too close to use the rifle again; it would obliterate her.  I didn't want to back off again ( sun was setting) but also did not want her to suffer a long drawn out death.  I decided the most humane solution was to speed up her death.  I took out my pocket knife ( a leatherman of all things!****) and approached.  The doe let out the most pitiful cry I have ever heard.  

She was pleading for her life.  

That stopped me in my tracks.  What was I doing? What was I about to do in front of my son?  Z was still there- a look of excited wonder in his face.  He still excited that the gun had been fired.   I continued on- I slowly put my boot on her head to hold it down on the ground.  I reached down and slit her throat.  Bleeding out was the most humane way to go.  The doe's life slowly faded as her blood ran down the hill. I kneeled down and wrapped my arms around Z as we watched the doe pass.  I had huge flashbacks to the hunter scenes in the movie Avatar- and told the Doe that her life was not wasted.  It taught a lesson.  Between Zachary and I, I am not sure who received the bigger dose.
Dad had not even gotten to his blind after dropping off Todd.  He circled back and picked us up for cleaning the doe. It was almost too efficient of a kill- only 45 minutes had elapsed from drop off at the blind to finishing the gutting of the deer.  All of it based on the "peer pressure" I felt from Zachary to perform my fatherly duties as a hunter teaching his son about hunting.  I don't hold it against him; who am I to squelch his new found passion? With any luck, my notions won't hinder him.  He is free to choose his own path- be it on the sidewalk or in the pasture.

I pulled Zachary aside later to talk with him about what happened; to see if he had questions or trauma.  The does cry was still in my head.  He was still so excited that he went hunting.  Excited that we used the gun.  Excited that I killed something.  I asked if the throat slitting bothered him; He seemed indifferent to it, describing it like it happened in a video game and not in real life.  Zachary started to plan his next visit to the ranch and asked " can I shoot next time?"  He has the dominant hunting gene; so I reckon he will soon. -CMM

*. as we were watching the sendera, various deer came and went.  Then out of nowhere, a blackbuck bounded across.  Just like a bonus points animal in one of the arcade hunting games.  
**. Since the lease was managed, the right to shoot the 11 point could most likely be sold to a big-city hunter.  I could not take the risk of injuring (thus buying) that deer.  
***. squeezing the trigger: something dad always told me to do in order to not jerk the gun and miss the shot.  " when it goes off, it should almost be a surprise to you.". I never fully got it until this hunt.  Now it's my turn to teach Z how to ignore the impulse of youth and to just 'squeeze' it.
****. Leatherman: a multi-tooled pocket knife; an industrial version of a swiss army knife.  my dad is fanatical about leathermans.  I have a whole set built out of his castoffs.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The New Now

I was reading a humorous article about the shenanigans of someone's grandparents in which the author stated, "poll your remaining grandparents to see if they have ever..."
I stopped reading and felt all hollow. It hit me- I don't have any remaining grandparents left.
I can hear Mom say, "tough shit- I don't have any parents left." True.
But Nanny is gone. Nanny has always been there. I'm nearly 40- she was always there. It's kinda like I just lost her all over again. The crying and mourning is long over; I'm not looking for consolation. I'm just trying to cope with the new now- the one with one more empty chair. -CMM

Friday, January 27, 2012

Waiting for death 12/31/2011

It's an odd gathering of sorts. Family, friends; all wanting to say the last goodbye. Not yesterday; only today's will do. We are all waiting on pins and needles. When will it happen? If I step out, will I miss it? Do I need to be here for it? Do I want to be here for it?
Periods of great sadness, then fond memories, then laughter, then sadness of the lost opportunity for new memories.
Everyone reacts differently. Mom is strong and then weepy. Jerry finds it hard to continually fill the voids. Troy looks bewildered and tired. Dad has nothing to solve. Corrie is strong and nostalgic. And I'm wishy washy to the point of total disarray. No logical thought will get us out of this one.
After rushing to the hospice this morning because of imminent death, we find ourselves all milling about. we couldn't stand to be away from her bedside before; all holding her hand. Now that the nurse's estimate has lapsed, people are confused. We all strangley have a sense of guilt for not having the patience to wait for the end. No one wants the end, however no one likes limbo either. For a group of type A problem solvers, this is hellacious. Theres nothing to solve. Nothing to fix. Nothing to cure.

Just the wait.

I will always remember her smile when I walked in a couple of days ago. The recognition that spread across her face. It is now alright. The love I have for you is still intact.
But not today. Today, it is locked away in a coma. I know it still exists; but it hurts not to see it anymore.

The hardest prayer to make is the one to ask for final resting peace. Sometimes I now wonder who it is more for- the release of the dying; or relief of the family. Too bad it doesn't relieve the guilt of wanting to leave...

[written while sitting in Nanny's hospice room all new year's eve. I finally gave out; and left for the evening so that I could spend time with the kids. Mom and Corrie remained to stay the night. In true style, Nanny left this world just as all the firecrackers were finishing their splendor on new year's morning. Mom and Cor had just finished singing Auld lang's syne at her bedside.]

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

It didn't smell!

QPM #4,692: Pulling yesterday's dry pull-up out of the trash and letting little girl re-wear it because I forgot to go to the grocery store to buy a new pack.

Why on earth is my portrait not hanging in the Parental Hall of Fame?

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Love Song, Definitely

I've beaten the musical horse with my ramblings of how music plays into my life -- sending me back lost into memories or stirring my desire for a spring time road trip in a car with the top down. This morning as I am a mere 48 hrs from leaving for the project I work all year for I show up to work before the crick crack of dawn to wrap up all of my teeny tiny details and find that the network drives are not accessible. F*** me!!! to quote Stu. Really...

I am worn thin by long hours, lack of sleep, way too much caffenine, no time, and stress oozing out my pores. My radio station is irriating me to the point of being irrational - my iTunes is not satisfying me yet some how a song finds me...

The first time I hear this song I am feels sad. But is that my mood determining the music?

I looked up the lyrics. Its a beautiful love song. Seems to be the only thing I am interested in hearing today.

So I get to choose -- sad music or love song? For me a metaphor for my state of mind.

For Chad --- it is Matthew's Song....

Eric's Song by Vienna Teng on YouTube


Strange how you know inside me
I measure the time and I stand amazed
Strange how I know inside you
My hand is outstretched toward the damp of the haze

And of course I forgive
I've seen how you live
Like a phoenix you rise from the ashes
You pick up the pieces
And the ghosts in the attic
They never quite leave
And of course I forgive
You've seen how I live
I've got darkness and fears to appease
My voices and analogies
Ambitions like ribbons
Worn bright on my sleeve

Strange how we know each other

Strange how I fit into you
There's a distance erased with the greatest of ease
Strange how you fit into me
A gentle warmth filling the deepest of needs

And with each passing day
The stories we say
Draw us tighter into our addiction
Confirm our conviction
That some kind of miracle
Passed on our heads
And how I am sure
Like never before
Of my reasons for defying reason
Embracing the seasons
We dance through the colors
Both followed and led

Strange how we fit each other

Strange how certain the journey
Time unfolds the petals
For our eyes to see
Strange how this journey's hurting
In ways we accept as part of fate's decree

So we just hold on fast
Acknowledge the past
As lessons exquisitely crafted
Painstakingly drafted
To carve us as instruments
That play the music of life
For we don't realize
Our faith in the prize
Unless it's been somehow elusive
How swiftly we choose it
The sacred simplicity
Of you at my side

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Children's Story

One of the twists of having children is the unexpected moments they bring to our lives -- those times where I really don't think my brain can churn an answer fast enough or accurate enough or parental enough. These moments always occur when my guard is down.

Zachary had checked out a book from the library -- it was a Star Wars book - yes he is the definition of obsessed. It was divided into three stories in one book so we were reading a story a night at bedtime. On this particular night, the story was about a battle between the Jedi and Clones versus the Battle Droids and how the Battle Droids thought their ambush would destroy the Jedi but the Jedi outsmarted them, etc etc.

A very tiny little subplot -- not even two pages worth of story - was about the Jedi trying to evacuate the civilians to a safe location. There were lines of people waiting to get on the transport however all of these people had all of their possessions with them. The Jedi then had to make a tough call and told all the civilians that only people were getting on the transport and they would have to leave all of their things behind.

There were protests -- "my mother's china - my grandpa's picture -- they have to come --I will NOT leave them." One guy hid all his stuff under a coat trying to smuggle it on board. But the Jedi drew the line -- people only. Then one farmer tried to bring his elephant dog thing on the transport but the Jedi said no. The farmer said that this elephant dog thing was like family and he could not leave it behind. The Jedi said to the farmer then you pick three of your neighbors to stay behind so that your elephant dog can get on the transport. The farmer looks at the people and then kisses his elephant dog thing and says to it -- Run to the desert and when the battle is over I will come find you and bring you home. The elephant dog cried and then ran away.

Again I must state this whole scene was two pages out of 30.

After Z's story, Rylee picked hers - Llama Llama series or Go Dog Go -- something of that nature. We then followed our usual bed time process. Lights out - prayers - kisses - take Rylee to bed then come back to tickle Z's back for a few minutes and then night night.

When I returned to Z's room to tickle his back, he rolled over and had those giant-only-a-kid-can-make tears rolling down his eyes. I was so startled. He wasn't sobbing -- just eyes full of tears and they were leaving shiny streaks on his cheeks. I asked him what was wrong and he said that he was so sad for the farmer to leave his pet. He said he just didn't understand why the elephant dog had to stay because it might die in the battle.

The value of Human life versus Animal Life actually Pet Life - Oh my. I am so over my head -- I try to pause to form my words correctly but I don't even know what words to try.

I attempt to explain that while pets are very important and very loved in this situation we have to save the people before the pets. Trying to put it in a little perspective I pose the example if we had to pick between the elephant dog and Rylee we would pick Rylee - right? Silence. I restate - we can't leave your sister and take the pet - right? More silence. It is kind of funny from a sibling rivalry point of view but at the time I was grasping at anything to help my son understand and say “Zachary - we can’t leave Rylee!”

I try the distraction technique -- "Don't worry Zachary when the battle was over the farmer came back and found his elephant dog and they lived together on the farm. It was a hard choice for the farmer but it worked out fine."

Z responds - "but Mom what if the battle droids had won and the pet had died because the farmer chose to leave him."

Now I have giant tears. I am so full of love for my sensitive caring loving boy but I am frustrated that I cannot adequately explain the situation.

So I just push forward with the truth. I tell him that if the pet had died the farmer would have been so very sad. That it would have been so hard for the farmer and he would miss his elephant dog. That the farmer may have even gotten angry with the Jedi for making him leave that family pet behind. But after time, the farmer would know that while his beloved pet died, a family was able to keep three of their loved people.

He still had the tears streaming and he kind of nodded and rolled over. He sniffed and said “You’re right. We can’t leave Rylee but I am still sad.”

I lay down next to him and tickled his back and said “I know you are baby.”

From Star Wars bed time story to a discussion on the value of life…I am a seriously underprepared parent of a beautifully compassionate boy.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

A video? Like one??? Try THREE!

Day 23: A video

Can't pick just one so....

Video 1: Z calls 911

This video is Zachary at his Safety Town field trip that I was able to chaperone. He was "volunteered" to show what it is like to make a 911 call. I wish I had video taped the screen he was looking at - it was a picture of a frying pan in huge flames. I also wish the audio was better so you could hear his answers. I was very proud of him -- he seems to have a bit of dramatic flair (say what???) and was quite a natural up there despite never having called 911 in real life. However, what makes me smile the most is the end where his classmates make room for him on the steps and he high fives his friend Cristian -- it's a goofy mom thing I guess -- proud to see your child interacting with his friends.


Video 2: Ry does yardwork

Rylee is all about "I do it!" "I try" and all the stereotypical independent phrases a 2 year can say. I picked this video of her because: 1. She had to do it (but Chad wouldn't let her do it on her own for obvious reasons) and 2. She is wearing a tutu. She does everything in a tutu -- a PINK tutu. Getting her ready for school in the morning is a battle because I don't let her wear her tutus to school -- she would sleep, shower, and play in a tutu if we would let her. While annoying at times - I have to admit this pink girly tutu phase makes me smile -- she looks so darn cute!!


Video 3: Super the Batman

My favorite video of my absolutely favorite three people. I think this showcases another reason I am completely in love with Chad - he is a down in the ditches Dad. He is not afraid to get on the floor and play and be involved. Not every dad has wicked light saber battles or defends himself from two little Power Rangers wielding Nerf swords or gives horse back rides or plays freeze blanket. Z and Ry -- we are a very lucky and incredibly blessed family to have the Daddy we do!!