It was on this day February 28 seven years ago that my Grandpa passed away. I can still remember the day so vividly, receiving a telephone call from my Mom telling me that he no longer was with us. It was a sad day, but also a day of rejoicing, knowing that he was in heaven experiencing no more pain in his new body. How I look forward to that day when I’ll be reunited with him again.
As I look back on our time together memories that stick out in my mind are all the weekends from 6th through 12th grades when he took me deer hunting. Every trip was always different, but so much fun. We would usually hunt on a piece of land that was located near the Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri. Because of the location we would make a weekend out of it, staying at my grandparents’ lake house. My two uncles and cousin usually came with us as well. The night before the first hunting day of the season, we would load ourselves up with unlimited peeled shrimp for dinner. You could say it was a tradition of ours. We wouldn’t do much the night before as we had to get up early in order to be at our deer stands by 5am. So we usually went to bed at a decent hour to get plenty of sleep.
For some reason I usually was too excited for the morning to come and it took me forever to fall asleep. And the only year we didn’t sleep at my grandparents’ lake house but at a hotel instead, I think I might have gotten only one hour of sleep those nights, due to my Grandpa’s incredibly loud snoring. Yes, I shared a room with him that year. I tell you that he could blow the roof off a house with his snoring. I’m not sure how you did it, Grandma, sharing a bed with him for 60+ years! Never again did I share a hotel room with him. And since my grandpa loved to eat, we usually ate breakfast at a 24 hour diner very early in the morning before we headed out to hunt.
Unfortunately, the seven years that he took me hunting, I only got one deer; my cousin and uncle only one as well. I never witnessed my Grandpa killing one at all. Even though he never shot one, he was truly happy being in his element in the woods. And his face was beaming when my cousin and I killed our first deer on a snowy November morning within minutes of each other. He was so proud when he taught us how to field dress our first deer.
I loved the deer stands he built that could seat six comfortably. I guess you could call them tree houses, not tree stands. He would always build it big enough so that he could lay down flat and still have room for movement. Maybe that’s why he never got a deer during those years because he was always sleeping! The stand would have a bench, walls, and a roof. Some years, depending on the temperature, he would bring a battery run space heater to keep himself warm. To say the least he went all out, and loved every minute of it.
Whittling was one of his favorite things to do as well. He would come up with a project each year and finish it to completion during the two weekends of the deer season. His stand looked like a beaver was living there, chewing it to pieces, with wood chips all over the ground. Whittling knives is what he perfected the most. I wonder if there are still those knives sitting around the house today?
And then his favorite saying during the season was “Bucks in the brush!” All of us had our own walkie-talkies to communicate with during the day as our stands were usually a decent distance apart. Once every few hours my Grandpa would get on the walkie-talkie and say, “Bucks in the brush!” just because he wanted to. Even though I never witnessed him in person saying it, I’m sure he had a smile on his face each and every time at the thought of us getting ready for a kill as a deer came toward us. We were on alert as he said those words.
Deer hunting with my Grandpa is something I’ll never forget. There were wonderful memories and great times. I’m honored to be taught by such a knowledgeable man on how to shoot, hunt, and field dress a deer…..someone who also taught me to fear a gun and the safety of using one at all times. I’m also honored to be related to a man who had such a positive character, influence and role model to many, not just me. He was a man of integrity who was faithful to his wife, his family and friends. He impacted his family, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, co-workers, friends, church people and everyone he came to know. He truly made a difference for the better in my life. I can’t wait to see him again someday!