As the leaves ripen shrivel and fall silently as if the days of summer are captured in leafy photos, I see home. This time of the year us river people certainly celebrate our harvests and begin to stock the freezer with local game meat for a long cold rough winter ahead. Out comes the orange vests as the mountains chirp like a painted backdrop. There’s this amazing feeling in the air a silent wind whistled cool and damp. The rattling leaves rustle in the fall breezes, the crinkling leaves making the strong powerful rise inside, close your eyes and ride the leaves up into the whirling winds. Falling, swirling, captured suspended in hope, fall is truly natures greatest celebration.
My orange plaid hunting coat still hangs int the pull out secret knoby door closet, like I’m still there going to put it on. Many coats of my greatest role models hang there as we once were in a soon to be another boarded up home along a river of heritage with broken families who left there home to just survive poverty. I’m one of these awesome few and I know the back window tears while seeing all your family fade. This is the East Coast curse, saying goodbye is it for now? Or forever? Waving back windows.
My family in particular lived off our mountains and streams, an hour away from the nearest town with roads that close and bridges the rivers ice take out we upriver people fill our freezers, I loved going hunting. Yes I love animals of course I’m a goober over ever beastie yet I can appreciate a life given to feed yourself. As a girl I rode onback the four wheelers watching for signs of our seasonal kill. Partridge, moose, deer are the best to fill the freezer up. Each crack of that smokin gun was a mouth fed that day. It’s an achievement and very prideful to have a full freezer you worked to fill together, kids and family of all ages contribute. I know the animals deaths are quick shot kills just instant death most the time, a good hunter kills on first crack every bullet thereafter is a reflection of your ability, so to be praised it’s one shot. Way to go! Personally I have never dropped anything other than birds but I’ve gutted, skinned and sectioned up a lot of carcuses not much we didn’t eat. Respectful real hunters eat their catches not wasted a life taken for novelties, wrong.
My first rifle was a old family 2 barrel barely held together so many first shots that gun has. I was proud so proud that day on the front lawn under the crab apple tree when my grams buttoned me up tied my vest and sent me out into the woods for the first time on my own. I was 11 that fall and had been practicing in local turkey shoots for months for this day. I wanted to be all look at me I’m a good hunter too even though I’m a girl. I walked up past the deer cages, yes we had pet deer. As I began the walk up the mountain crunching leaves that lovely wet dirt smell they make as they rot into the earth, beautiful sun like a colidiscope of oranges,reds reflecting like sun crystals above my head flickers of light it’s a gorgeous sight. I was off to shoot my first partridge. I was more puffed up than the partridge doing his sexy dance. When I got to the top I stopped for my lunch, always packed in wax paper in a paper bag, eating lunch in the wilderness back against a tree longer you sit the more nature investigated you, that odd giant stomping around loudly. Birds sing, bunnies hop and if lucky a deer may cross your road oh then the coyotes.. yuck. Shiver.
I saw that wee volcano mountain in the distance bald peak had the greatest number of birds only trees along the base but dense and full of yummy birds. Before long there he was in the turn right around that bend, a beautiful bold little bird, partridge once spooked good luck.
Metal clinks as I close my gun, click. Snuggle you shotgun in firmly, eyes focused breathe in.., exhale slowly at end of breath.. pull the trigger. Crack! The gun powder, that amazing familiar smell and there.. right there was a bird, flapping about as his nervous system shut down. I go to retrieve my catch all I can think is common shot be good. Bam!! Head shot!
I walked the mountain and ridge slowly but ran home not even considering hunting more just had to get down there to show them. My uncles full of praise, my aunt took pictures and my gram took my one partridge inside to get him skinned and ready for my supper. I felt so big that day.
These traditions are passed down again.
I had s proud feast at the round table were the guides sat that night, my little partridge potatoes and some fiddle heads boiled up. Fantastic!! Ate like a queen.
It’s memories like these that light my eyes and a silly grin stays on my face as I remember.