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I met a guy who took his wife hunting once. He told a sad tale about it.

I met this guy, an old timer and a stranger who never gave his name, one year, during deer hunting season on a cold and rainy November night. We were the two obvious out of towners in a small bar in a small town in a forgotten part of upstate NY. I knew enough to take off my blaze orange hunting gear before going into town for a beer or two, I had been in this bar before. This other guy, the stranger still had on his wool red and black checked hunting pants, and had his hunting jacket draped over the back of his bar stool. He wore a well-worn and dirty blaze orange hunting cap too. He seemed not to care that it signaled to the locals that he was the out of towner. In fact, had anyone said anything to him to make him feel out of place, I get the feeling they would have regretted it.

Yet, as he sat there drinking bourbons and beers he seemed a regular guy. Somehow, at sometime that night, while we sat there drinking we got to talking deer hunting with each other and then with a few of the locals. One of the local yokels, a thin balding guy in coveralls named Fred, chimed in that on the next day he would awake before sun-up to a fine breakfast that his wife would be making for him. He would eat his fill and have a couple of cups of Java, and then head out for the hunt. This time he said he would take along his wife on the hunt, it would be the first time for her to come along. His wife being up early to cook breakfast was all part of a deal; and his end of the deal was to take her hunting. Fred explained that he just couldn't take her incessant complaining year after year that he never took her along on a hunting trip. So once and for all he would take her hunting, and hopefully she would hate it so much that she would never want to tag along again, and she would stop complaining that he did not pay enough attention to her.

Just as Fred finished his story, the other guy who was an out of towner, the nameless stranger spoke up in a soft but deep voice. He said: "I have often fantasized about taking my wife along when I go off hunting." At that the stranger took a swig of bourbon, cleared his throat as if preparing for a long haul bit of a speech and continued: "Just like Fred here my wife used to bitch and moan that I never took her hunting. She would not only complain about that but when I bagged a deer she would tell me that the meat was terrible and not worth the effort."

He got a lot of nods from the small crowd of locals that had gathered around us. Even the barmaid was listening from the other side of the bar. He looked around at each man, eye to eye, then turned his glare onto the barmaid cocked his head a bit to the side and told her: " My dear a round for the boys, and if you're brave enough to be listening in, then one for you too". She went off pretty quick to fetch the drinks, and soon everyone in the bar was happily throwing one down while listening to the continued tale of the stranger.

"I always tried to explain to her..." he went on, "...that the hunt was not just about the venison or whether or not you took a liking to the taste of it. I told her over and over again, hunting was about the hunt, the whole process that led up to your bagging whatever it was you were trying to bag, but she never seemed to get it. All she could do was complain that I always ignored her at this time of the year and that she was sure I hunted only to be rid of her for aweek or so each year. That went on every year until one year just a few years ago when she insisted that I not go hunting but instead spend the time with her. Well gentlemen and lady..." He looked at the barmaid again, as he said that last part, with a bit of a nod and a slight stiff lipped smile, and took another sip of his bourbon whiskey and a bit of beer to chase it. Then he continued: "I had had it with her jabbering year after year. She was right for her part but I never let on to her; I went hunting to get away from her, to be free of her for that time of the year. Sure I loved her but I needed to get away a bit too. Then I fell in love with the hunt. It was a fascinating experience for a city fella like me to be there in the woods, stalking a deer and learning about nature along the way. Hell it was about 5 years of it before I finally bagged my first one, but I learned my lesson well in those five dry years. I got a buck every year after for the next 27 years." There was a hushed murmur of approval among the small crowd about his 32 years of hunting, with 27 of them being hunting successes. One of the crowd of locals said something to the effect that the stranger's was a great record and he got lots of nods of approval as all agreed this stranger likely knew his stuff. The barmaid seemed enamored of him right at that moment. Even though he was many years her elder, it was obvious that he was a real manly type and apparently one heck of a good hunter if all he said was to be believed. I don't think there was one of us there who doubted his word ¡V he seemed that sure of himself.

After another moment or two of the hushed remarks back and forth among his audience, and after everyone made sure to take at least a sip or two of refreshment, there was again silence. As if on cue the stranger continued in his soft spoken but manly voice: ¡§Well after a few years of hunting, it began that each time I had spent some time in the woods I would always get to feeling a bit guilty about leaving my wife behind. Then, I guess, in about the eighth year of my hunting trips, I started to develop a bit of a fantasy that one day I would take my wife along for the hunt. Once I had the first, I fantasized every year after. Each time I sat on my stand, in the quiet of the forest, these thoughts would simmer up in my conscience just like a day dream. Just like in dayreams I would drift off to that place somewhere between wakefulness and sleep. It was relaxing, and the daydream made the time pass. Sometimes I would be like this for an hour or two and wake up and be covered in snow that I had not even known was falling. Other times, at leas 4 or 5 in all those years, I suddenly would be brought out of it by the sound of a twig snapping only to see a deer walking up or already standing there in the clearing by my stand almost as if were waitng for me to shhot. Of course I bag those deer quick, with the thoughts of taking my wife for the hunt fresh in my mind. Never really thought I would do it, but I figured that if I did, maybe I could stop her damned bitching and moaning."

He paused again, had some of his drink and then told us about all of the fine bucks he had taken over his years of hunting in the woods of the northeast. As he told us about the all bucks he had bagged, Fred and the other locals took a small collection put the money on the bar and bought round after round, the stranger¡¦s and my drinks were on them. After a while the stranger seemed finished with his tales. Then a few of the locals briefly told about some of their finer hunts; but I was hopeful there would be more to come from the stranger. He had a way with telling a story that made me feel as if I was a kid again, maybe about 9 or 10 years old, who was listening to his father or and uncle or a grand-dad who was recounting fascinating tales of yesteryear, tales that were filed with wonder and which filled me with the awe with which only an inexperienced child could be filled. I guess I wasn¡¦t the only one who wanted to hear more because the blond haired blue eyed barmaid, Sally her name was, spoke up. This just as I was wishing for more of the stranger¡¦s stories; it was almost as if she had read my mind when she said: ¡§Tell us stranger, did you ever take your wife along for the hunt?¡¨

At this the stranger whirled round away from the crowd and peered long and hard into Sally¡¦s young blue eyes with a fiery stare. He slowly grabbed for his bourbon and emptied the glass in one long swig. He seemed to pale a bit in the dim glow thrown by the barroom lights but it was hard to tell. The crowd obviously wanted to hear an answer to Sally¡¦s question, and after a long drawn out pause two of the men almost simultaneously asked: ¡§Well did you?¡¨ The old stranger slowly placed the empty glass back onto the bar, and asked for another. Sally reached out and grabbed the bottle that sat next to her on the bar and she poured one, spilling a bit onto the bar. She never broke the eye to eye contact she and that stranger had with one another. She though wasn't so much like that young boy listening to stories told by his dad, she was I think feeling something quite different for the gray eyed stranger at that point. More of a man woman attraction sort of a thing, but an attraction that she knew was to go nowhere. He reached for the glass and without taking his gaze from Sally¡¦s eyes he slowly, in that same hushed but deep and manly voice said: ¡§That was the only year I ever shot a doe!¡¨ I was on my stand and I had set my wife on another across the clearing. It was a bit of a warm day for that time of the year, and I saw the wife had dozed off; I was a bit groggy too. Soon I was having that fantasy again of taking the wife hunting with me. I was in that comfortable place somewhere between sleep and wakefulness, and I had forgotten all about my wife being there with me. Don¡¦t know how long I was daydreaming my fantasy, could have been a minute or an hour when suddenly I heard a twig snap. I forced opened my heavy eyelids to see a huge beautiful doe there in the clearing. I slowly brought my rifle up to my shoulder and squeezed of a shot. Shot that doe right through the neck I did and she dropped in an instant. As I walked over to check on the doe, I remembered Mary, that was my wife¡¦s name Mary it was. She was still sitting there her back to the tree her head resting on the trunk. I thought it a bit funny she had slept through the doe breaking that twig, and then through the bang of my rifle. I actually chuckled because after all those years of complaining that I had always left her home, here she was on the hunt and she slept right through it. Well, as I walked over to her, I saw that there were bright red streaks on her face like tears. At first I thought it was blood from the doe, then it hit me. Darned bullet had passed right through the Doe¡¦s neck and hit Mary square between the eyes; she was stone cold dead..." His chest heaved and there was a bit of an audible sob.

Sally the barmaid hadn¡¦t moved a muscle but there were tears running down her face as she stared at the stranger's tear filled gray eyes. She was about to say something when the stranger raised his finger to her lips across the bar to silence her and he said: ¡§You see I had done just exactly what I had done every year for 32 years. I went hunting, and as usual while hunting, I forgot all about her. All her complaining - I guess I never could stand it because I knew that she was right over all those years. She knew exactly why I hunted alone. I haven¡¦t hunted since ¡V its been 5 years now that I spend every hunting season with Mary at her grave site. Now she ¡K ¡¨ His choked up with those last two words and his voice just trailed off in a sobbing whimper all that gruff manliness somewhere else now.

At that he threw back the last bourbon in one fell swoop, and he quickly spun around on the bar stool. He faced the awestruck crowd of locals and began to rise up out of his seat. The crowd parted evenly to each side of his seat, and the stranger stood and grabbed his hunting jacket, then headed for the door. Just before exiting he turned back toward the crowd, a tear glistening on his left cheek, his gray eyes looking cold and so very old, and he said: ¡§Now she doesn¡¦t complain anymore..."; and with that he turned and was out the door soon just a shadow disappearing into the cold rainy night.

I never saw him again after that night, its been a few years since then. I¡¦ll never forget him though, on that you can bet. Each year when my wife teasingly complains about my going away to hunt just to get away from her: I leave her at home and promise her that when I come back we will spend some time together. I usually hunt the week of Thanksgiving, but I always make it home for the Thanksgiving holiday, and I spend plenty of time with my wife and children. Each time we sit around the dinner table I thank heaven that my wife is there to enjoy it with me and I say a small prayer for the stranger and Mary. If he ever reads this story, I just want him to know he is in my prayers, and to know that each year I return to the town and to the same bar on the same night hoping he will be there so I can invite him home for the holiday. I would ask only two small favors of him: that he tell me his name, and that he tell his hunting tale to my wife from his own lips. That way I can be sure she will never ruin one of my hunts!


Please note the above story is copyrighted by the author as follows:

A Hunting Tale
On Taking The Wife Hunting „¶
By Glenn R. Bartley
All rights reserved „¶
by the author July 9, 2004.
No part of this article may be copied, reproduced or distributed in any format without the express written consent of the author except that you may download one copy of the file containing this story to your personal computer for later viewing.
 
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