First Buck - Part 3

         Just then, my Uncle Parley appeared on the scene, breathing hard. He had shot a buck and had come up to tell us and get Dad to come down and load the buck. He also hadn’t finished cleaning the buck and wanted help with that job, but he left early to make sure we didn’t take off for camp. He knew we didn’t know for sure where he was, and maybe we’d try to take our bucks back, then return to help him. He thought we could get everything in one trip, at least that’s how I remember it.

            Anyway, we loaded the bucks in the back of the jeep, and dad suggested I go down with Parley and help him finish cleaning his buck. Dad and Tom would go hang their two in camp and return to get Parley’s.  I said, “What about my buck, we gotta get him too.” At this point I’m pretty sure I was starting to wear on my dad’s patience a little, although he had a compassionate nature and felt for me that I was still hanging on to my misguided notion that I got that buck, after all, everybody with nice bucks except 13-year-old hope-against-hope Clark. His big heart went out to me.  “Son,” he said, “I think you might have winged that buck, or maybe a real near miss, I did see him flinch, so you probably came awful close, but if you’d hit him he wouldn’t have kept going up and over the ridge.”  He was hoping that would satisfy me.

            At that point I knew I was pushing the envelope but I said, “Dad, let me just go see, I know where he crossed the ridge.”  Dad made a compromise in a way. He was now a little miffed at me. Dad didn’t tolerate back talk, and this conversation was approaching that in his mind.  I’m pretty sure he was thinking, “Why doesn’t he trust my judgement?” It was starting to become a little offensive to him. After all he was 41, an experienced hunter and here I am 13-years-old telling him he’s wrong, once was ok, twice was sort of ok- three times was getting on his nerves, four times was on the very edge of his patience.  “Son,” he said, being as nice as he could be, “I’ll tell you what- you go down with Uncle Parley and help him, we’ll jeep up to camp, unload the bucks, hang ‘em up, and then we’ll come back to get you and Parley and his buck.” And then came his last patient effort. “When we get up where that buck crossed over the ridge we’ll look for blood and sign of a hit.”

            I knew I should say no more, I needed to obey, he was being as nice about it as he could, but in my mind I was resigning myself to, “No deer for Clark,” and I was definitely disappointed.  I was going home empty handed again. Two years in a row. Trueblood wasn’t as smart as I thought he was. OK, I missed, get used to it was the essence of what was going through my mind.

            Parley and I started down the mountain, Dad and Tom started Jeepin’ up the ridge.  About 200 yards down the hill, Parley stopped.  He put his hand up cupping his ear looking back up the mountain, I looked at him wondering “What’s he doing.”  Then I could hear somebody yelling. I turned around and realized Dad was yelling.  They were out of the jeep.  “What’s the trouble?”  I thought.  “What’s a matter?” I asked Uncle Parley. “I dunno, I can’t hear him very good.”  The distance was probably four or five hundred yards. Then Parley got a little expression on his face a squinting, straining expression- listening real hard. Then he looked at me and said, “Your Dad says you got your buck.”  “Go,” he said, “Go to your Dad, I’ll go down and finish cleaning the buck.”  A huge smile came to my face I was feeling so happy.  I took off running up the hill, carrying my 30-30. I covered that entire distance with only a few quick rests. Boy was I pumped. I got there out of breath, Dad was pretty darn humble.  “Son, you were right you hit that buck right in the heart, he must have had just enough adrenaline to make those few bounds, and as soon as he got out of our sight- he collapsed.  I truly apologize, I should have let you come up here and check. Please forgive me.”

            He patted me heartily on my back, gave me a hug and pointed to the bullet hole right where Trueblood said it would be. Tom was happy for me too. My first buck. A beautiful fat three point buck. I hardly could believe all this was happening. Dad cleaned the buck and instructed me too as he went. We loaded it on. We were definitely loaded. As we jeeped along through the sage, I kept looking at those three beautiful bucks and out on the magnificent scenery.  It was a sunny bright day in October.  I was now a “REAL” hunter, not just a wanna be.  I held my 30-30 in my hand- Dad’s gift to me, one of un-numbered gifts he gave to me in my lifetime, most of which were spiritual and emotional, not physical.  No boy could have ever asked for a better Dad.

            When we arrived in camp- we immediately made three stout short poles from pine tree limbs to hang each buck from by making a slice in each hock, then inserting the poles through those slits and spreading the hind legs apart for cooling purposes, then we attached ropes to the middle of each pole then threw the ropes over a strong horizontal limb of a big pine tree, and hoisted each buck up, one at a time so they were hanging three or four feet off the ground, head down.  The ropes were tied off to another limb. Now the bucks could cool in the shade. I loved seeing them hanging side by side, the thick big horns of Dad’s and Tom’s, then the smaller thinner antlers of mine, but it didn’t matter, what counted was that I had a buck hanging there alongside theirs. I couldn’t have been happier. Dad made a quick lunch while Tom and I took a short nap in the sunshine, just lying on the dirt and pine needles. No bed ever felt better. Soon we were on our way into dreamland. When we woke up, Dad had gone to get Parley and the buck, and we chowed down on the lunch he made. The whole hunting trip, beginning to end is a happy and treasured memory. The memory of my first buck. 

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