When I walked outside for the paper, this morning, I found a thick fog and the river was flat and I felt wrapped in silence. Smoke twisted from my neighbor's chimney and gave the slightly chilled air a brambly oak scented undertone. Acorns splatted the roof of our travel trailer as the squirrels fed.
I need to splat a few of them for the pot.
Fall, is the best.
Fifty years ago I'd of been out the door and deep into the oak groves well before sunrise. Back then I humped an old single shot four-ten purchased Lord knows where. It suited my purposes. It along with my worn hand me down tan hunting vest, and a lunch, and about ten shotshells, and my trusty nine shot .22 revolver comprised my gear.
Tree selection wasn't important as long as it was situated deep in the woods. I'd settle my young backside at the base of the tree and wait. The squirrels moved early and I took any target offered. Seems like I'd sit their for hours but in reality when the sun reached the peaks of the tree tops I'd ease out. With my gathered game I'd move quietly towards the dark creek and field dress my furry friends. I dressed the squirrels with a half rusty old Barlow I'd found at my school bus stop. Even though it held a good edge it had seen better days. I just liked the name, Barlow. I remember this tidbit because I'm sure it's still snuggled deeply in the mud on the bottom of the creek where I lost it that day.
I still remember the stark white banks of the creek, the sand polished by eons of rain and yearly floods, tiny bleached bones of ancient rock, and how it squeaked underfoot. The creek sat beneath high banks where palmettos and cabbage palms formed walls of green and brown. Afterwards I'd fill my canteen with the tepid tannin water and then retreat to a dry place in the brush for my lunch.
I always had a small fire for company. Lunch was simple. Do you remember those logs of red paper wrapped bologna. That was lunch. I'd cut my slices thick and unceremoniously slap the slices between two slabs of bread sans condiments and then wrap my sandwiches in wax paper. I liked my lunches simple. Creek water and bare meat and bread - a ten year old kids fantasy of mountain men.
I'd often kick out the fire and walk the creek towards the railroad tracks - the long way home. While on the trail I'd pretend to be Jim Bridger, the famous mountain man. As a child any mountain man was my hero but Jim held the honor as I had just finished his biography. Even kept a flint and steel in my gear bag which amounted to nothing more than dead weight.
It was a long walk back to our little house. I had to travel the tracks, cross a huge field of cattle and its six barbed wire fences, but I enjoyed the time. Then, back to the world of farm work and family and school, and my books. The boots stomped free of dirt and cleaned and placed near the back door of our little house. Inside my mother would smile and praise me as the great hunter of the family.
Another day in the silence of the woods lost forever. Then she'd always ask, "Did you leave a little piece of yourself among the oaks for memories?"
I'd answer, "Always."
"Good. Then your dreams will be filled with happiness."