Today is the first day of deer season in Pennsylvania and I’m not there.
Since 1971, my father and I would spend a few days every year hunting white-tailed deer at a cabin we built together near Kettle Creek, Pennsylvania. Our cabin is small, heated only by a wood stove, and it doesn’t have electricity or running water. We had lots of time for telling stories, with our easy chairs pulled up close to the wood stove.
We told the same stories every year. Tales of past hunts. The shots we made. The deer we missed. Stories about getting lost and finding our way back. Stories about friends and relatives.
We shared stories over those 35 years about living life, our shared work as engineers, stories about our shared military service. Dad was drafted into the Army right after the Korean War and I did my time in the Air Force 20 years later. The last couple of years, my son Stosh joined us to carry on our tradition.
I grew up hunting with my Dad. Our goal was not necessarily to bag a buck. Friends at work laughed when I returned home from deer hunting without a deer year after year. The last decade, as he entered his 70’s and me, my 40’s, a deer would have had to hop into the bed of my Dad’s pick-up truck and turned broadside for one of us to pull the trigger. Our trips were about so much more than hunting.
My Dad passed away suddenly this year on September 16th. Our last conversation was about getting a gun ready for Stosh to use today. When I rushed the 300 miles to his home on the night he died, I found that he had already gotten that gun ready.
This fall has been hectic, so Stosh and I couldn’t hunt this week. But next year you will find us at the little cabin near Kettle Creek, carrying on a tradition of sharing hunting stories and learning about each other. We will also pass a few, long, fall nights together close to the wood stove remembering those that came before us.