It’s hunting season here in Kansas and, like most of the guys I grew up with in the small town of St. John, there are few things I look forward to more.
Now, I’ve never been much of a deer hunter, finding that particular form of the sport a bit too ‘hind-end-intensive’ – two much sitting, not enough shooting. Sure, there are few things better than a freezer full of venison, but there are enough family members who are willing to freeze their parts in my place and share their kills with me.
No, I’ve always been more of a pheasant hunter, a rabbit hunter. I come by it honestly. My grandfather, until the day he died, was one of the most restless men you’d ever want to meet. He enjoyed the long walks through the cornstalks and shelterbelts and tolerated my clumsily stomping beside him at a very early age.
And, every Thanksgiving and Christmas, a couple of nicely dressed out pheasants would sit upon our holiday table, surrounded by a spread of fish we’d caught that summer, and Grampa would never blink as I told people how I’d helped hunt them down. The most help I ever gave him being that I had managed to stay quiet long enough for us to get within shooting range of a few hidden ringnecks or cottontails.
I was telling my barber the other day about the magazine and he wondered aloud exactly why it was that people would collect tractors and engines and the like. I told him about hunting with Grampa. I told him about tromping through a knee-deep snow with the smell of woodsmoke from a nearby farm tickling your nose. I told him about how, unbeknownst to my mother, everyone in the hunting party, no matter their age, got to take a small swig from a flask of blackberry brandy at the end of a day of hunting, ‘Just to warm you up.’ He didn’t quite get the connection until I explained that, if I wanted it, I could go to the store and pretty much buy any type of meat I could possibly want. The point of hunting, I said, had more to do with the weather and the woodsmoke and, even, eating Gramma’s eggs before we left than it did with meat. Hunting, for me is remembering.
Collecting. No one needs to do it. I’m sure that many of you, while you’re taking a wrench to a beloved piece of old iron or putting a new coat of paint over old, wooden plow handles are remembering as much as you’re working. Do you remember being allowed to drive that tractor for the first time, maybe before you were really ready? What do you remember? I’d like to hear about it.