|December 31, 1999, 02:18 PM||#1|
Join Date: May 2, 1999
Location: South Carolina
Three years ago tomorrow, my Dad and I packed up the jeep and headed to a swamp that we had hunted many times. My Dad was in poor health and had not gotten out much, but wanted to hunt his beloved corner of South Carolina that day.
Neither of us were much on chit-chat and the trip seemed longer than ever. We parked the jeep on an old logging trail and headed across a fallow field. The weather had been dry for some time and the walking was easy for me. Dad was having a hard time and I slowly shifted his load from his shoulders to mine. Before we had covered 50 yards, I had everything but his rifle. Before we made it across the field, I had it also.
Our plan was for either me to fill my last doe tag or for us to go a couple of hundred yards into the swamp and watch a wallowing trough for feral hogs. After the stress of crossing the feild, I decided that I didn't want to leave him by himself.
The downside to this is that my Dad was your typical class A personality. He was totally unable to sit still and was constantly moving around spooking game. (grin) I had learned to live with it over the last 30 years and so I simply figured we'd have a good walk in the swamp and some bird watching.
(when he was in better health I would put him where he would spook stuff coming through a game funnel. I'd get off at a tangent and pop what he spooked. Worked great!)
The furthur back in the swamp we got, the more concerned for his comfort I got. He was breathing hard and having trouble getting through the low spots. We got to our position so I put him and I up against a log. We were a bit close to the wallow, but I figured it would be a deaf animal that showed up anyway.
Now, my Dad was known for never seeing many animals and usually expressed surprise when I popped one close by. He was hell on wheels during bird season, but big game was a different story.
(One of my bitterest regrets was not insisting on his coming with me when I went to Africa.)
We were having a grand time watching the squirrels and birds. Nothing was moving in the swamp and it was as quiet as a church. There was no wind, but air was fresh and the light coming through the canopy of trees and vines was diffused, yet bright.
My Dad was propped up maybe two feet away. In front of us about 8 feet was a game trail. Down the trail to our right was a low spot that was perpetually wet. The hogs used this spot as a wallow and the surrounding area showed the results of their baths. The wallow was about 20 yards down the trail. We were partially screened from it by palmettos and bamboo.
I felt a gentle nudge from my Dad's right foot against my left foot. A young doe had meandered down the trail and seen us. She was not spooked, but was very curious. Carefully and daintily she walked over and sniffed Dad's left boot. She side stepped around him, examined me with her nose twitching and ghosted down the path. She stopped at the wallow, got a quick drink and sashayed on about her business.
We looked at each other and smiled. I don't think he knew it and I didn't suspect it, but this was the last time he'd be in the field with a gun. Somehow the appearance of that youngster was like an omen or a vision. Not sure what it meant and I think of it from time to time.
Dad was diagnosed with bone cancer a month later and died soon thereafter. Seven months later I scattered his ashes in that swamp and thought about the afternoon with the doe.
[This message has been edited by Gizmo99 (edited December 31, 1999).]
|December 31, 1999, 07:26 PM||#2|
Join Date: October 29, 1999
Location: rural Illinois
Giz, thanks for sharing this. I will always remember my last hunt with my father. He was developing some health problems that later turned out to be cancer, but we had a phenomenal pheasant hunt one cold, windy day. My retriever pointed for the first and only time in his 11 seasons of hunting and we busted 6 roosters out of a field corner like a covey of quail. One flew right into Dad's face and he hollered and flailed at the thing with his shotgun barrel til he could get a shot. Dog didn't know where to go first. I knocked one down while laughing at the whole circus. We sat in the sun, out of the cold wind next to a big round haybale, and laughed about it till Dad felt strong enough to walk back. Must be about 10 years ago. God, I miss him. At least we've got our memories.