And then on Opening Day . . . the countryside explodes.
First thing in the morning, you wake when darkness still blankets the sky. You load your rifle, the bolt and bullet clicking and ringing on its way into the barrel. Gathering your coveralls, that old orange sweater you've worn for years, those wool gloves that keep your hands so warm. You heat up the hot chocolate Mom made for you last night and fill up the thermoses. You start the old van, and carry your rifle, your warm clothes, the rope, the thermoses, a camera and cell phones out to it.
Then it comes. That moment when a little light shows through the black blanket and Daddy says its time to go. You load up and pull away from the back door, out onto the road. The headlights flashing over quiet fields. The feeling of anticipation crawls over you. You wonder if you'll see a deer when you reach the fields beyond your house. You wonder what you'll find.
You get out of the van by the rail road tracks and follow the cow trail on soft dirt, less noise. Little brother, too young to hunt yet, follows along behind you while you hold the rifle. "Always stay behind the person with the rifle," Daddy tells him.
Then you see it.
The deer. The first one. The one you want. The one you hoped you would see. The one you hoped you wouldn't miss when take your first shot. But you do miss it. Completely. Utterly. You give chase. Hoping to send it to the boys. But away he goes. From your restricted world of property and fences he bounds, free as the wind. You watch him go. But still--you fired the first shots. The very first shots. You had the first chance.
Around you rifle shots echo in from the prairies. Some close together, others apart. You think, "Maybe someone else will get the buck. Maybe someone else will enjoy his meat this winter. Maybe there's someone else who needs him, too."
You rest in the van with the guys, you share a cup of hot chocolate. The sun is up, the wind is blowing and you feel warm. You feel protected. You're the only girl with a bunch of boys you've loved forever. You laugh at jokes they tell every year at hunting season. You even add a new twist to one yourself. You feel loved back when they all laugh. You feel like you're theirs. Only theirs. Like they're watching out for you. It doesn't matter that you missed the first deer of the day because in the back of their mind is, "You'll get one next time." Unspoken, not needed to be said. It's the way we hunters are.
Hunting season means two things to me. The first that I am able to do something with my own two hands, something meaningful. That God gave me the ability to think and to learn. I learn something new every year. I love that I have a dad who is ready to teach me things whenever I need to be taught.
The other . . . I get to help with something. Something big, important. Something a lot depends upon. We're not full of money like some families are. The meat from the deer we shoot feeds us. It saves a lot. I'm apart of that. I've always loved that I get to be, and not drawn into it because the world says a woman should have the right to do whatever a man can. I don't have to prove my manly womanhood. All I prove is that I love my family, I'll do anything for them.
"But you, be strong
and do not let your hands be weak,
for your work shall be rewarded!”
1 Chronicles 15:7