Know When to Fold Them

November 27, 2011

As you may have noticed from this blog, I am recently married.  And this was the first year that I took my husband home to Western New York for the most sacred of all get togethers in the Clever clan.  My dad never asks his many children if we are coming home for Thanksgiving or Christmas or even Arbor Day.  There is only one momentous occasion for which he poses the question.

Are you coming home for the opening day of deer season?

Yes, for as many years as I can remember, my brothers and I have been making the pilgrimage home to Western New York every November for the opening day of deer season.  We all head out into the woods in our blaze orange hoping for that elusive eighteen point buck.  Now, for those dear readers who now despise me for killing Bambi, please read the rest of the blog post before making any judgments.

I took my husband up to the outfitters in Maine to get his blaze orange gear, and we made the nine hour car journey to the small town in Western New York where I grew up.  We loaded the Chevy pick up trucks and headed into the woods where my dad has kept a cabin that is only used two nights a year for hunting season.  When I say cabin, I do not want you to think my dad is living high on the hog.  The cabin is an old shanty that he had some guy drag out into the woods.  It’s tilting on its foundation, and any day now a strong wind is going to blow it down the ravine its perched on.  There’s no electric or running water, and you flush the toilet by pouring a bucket of water down it.  But it’ll keep the rain off your head and will most likely keep you from getting eaten by bears.

So the opening day of deer, my family rises, straps on the blaze orange vests, check their pockets for shells and pick up their Sweet Sixteen Browning rifles.  We step out into the morning silence, silent in our polyester soft suede hunting bibs.  No one makes a sound except for the click of cartridges falling into the magazines of our guns.  And then off down the gas well road in the direction of the swamp.  Deer believe that their predators cannot follow them into the murk of the swamp, and so on opening day, that is the best place to find them.  My husband is unarmed, and I am mostly blind.  So we are sent into the swamp to scare the deer out of their hiding places.  The swamp is wet and spongy, but we make our way through it.

I might want to state at this point that my husband and I were not really hunting.  We were talking and stomping and talking and my husband even pushed over an entire dead tree just to hear it crash through the forest as it fell.  So it wasn’t like we were expecting to stalk up on an animal and shoot it dead.  We were just having fun.

So we reach the other side of the swamp and start up the crest that marks the end of my dad’s property to the east.  But we were not alone.

We were suddenly surrounded by five doe, two to our right and three to our left.

I froze.  As the only person carrying a firearm in the immediate vicinity, it was going to be up to me to shoot one of these things.  My husband narrates the entire episode.

B: They’re coming closer.

Me: Can’t they smell us?

B: Oh, there’s one moving right at you.

Me: She’s looking at me.

B: But she’s coming closer!

This is all spoken at normal pitch.  No dramatic whispering implied.  This deer knew we were there, and it kept coming towards us.  Until she stopped.  Maybe ten yards away, turned her shoulder to me, and stared right at me.  By this point, my gun was at my shoulder, safety off, and I had sighted her in.  And then something caught her attention, and her ears went up.  With the morning sun streaming through the trees and the ground white with a dusting of snow, the scene was majestic.  So I lowered my gun and put the safety back on.

I can’t shoot her, I said, she’s too pretty.

Lucky for me, my uncle stole a deer from my brother, and mine was not the story of the hunting season.

But that doe got me thinking.  I didn’t pull the trigger even though it was a clean, easy shot, and she was a big deer.  Instead, I decided not to shoot.

I recently completed a manuscript that was my first by request story.  It was a contemporary instead of a historical piece, and I hated writing it.  The whole thing was a misery to me.  But the editor I was working with was keen on getting a contemporary out of me.  I haven’t heard back from this editor, so I’m currently in that state of limbo.  Do they want it or no?  But it gives me plenty of time to think.

I hated writing that story.  What if this editor wants to buy it and publish it?  What if I get stuck writing contemporaries when my love is historicals?  It’s a non-issue unless she offers to buy it.  But until then, Kenny Rogers will keep singing in my head.

Know when to fold them, know when to walk away, know when to run.

I didn’t pull the trigger that day, but can I say no to a book deal that doesn’t feel right?

I guess I won’t know until that day comes.

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