Editor’s note: This column was originally published May 10, 2009.
Many years ago, a member of my hunting family moved on to new grounds and joined the ranks of another party. This particular member played an important role. I didn’t realize how much of a role they played until recently, when I found myself trying to fill the position and doing so poorly. The past member handled the responsibilities with such ease that I often overlooked their efforts, and only now have I begun to understand it completely.
The role left vacant would seem to most to be that of a secondary position or one that, as you matured, would no longer be required. It is true that in my hunting career I never saw this person shoot a deer, bear, squirrel or, well, anything for that matter. But like all successful outings, the behind-the-scenes work gets overshadowed by the conquest.
I have not seen or met anyone who could prepare more thoroughly for an adventure. It did not matter whether it was a weekend at a deer camp in Ritchie County or a 10-day jaunt in the backcountry, things were in order and well planned out.
In the down time, routine maintenance and repair of all of our clothing, sleeping bags and day packs were seen as standard operating procedures in order to keep the gear readied for a moment’s notice. The meals were prepared well in advance so that even cold, tired, worn out woodsmen would be able to nourish their bodies with home-style meals instead of eating Beanie-Weenies and snack cakes that the crew would have packed if they had been responsible. Menus were planned out so that little thought was needed in the field. Even on short or no notice, the truck could be packed and readied as if the person had been given two weeks’ notice.
The member had an uncanny ability to predict arrival and departure times for the hunting party. We often left without a return estimated time and I would always be amazed how they would know exactly when we would return and have something warm for us and a place to sit so we could tell our grand tales. Even more amazing is how they would not complain and, in fact, find pride in unpacking and readying the gear for the next trip, whether it was the following morning or a week away.
The sad reality is this person will never be replaced. In fact, the job posting was removed from the board many years ago and only fond childhood memories exist. Some other hunting party must have required their services more than my brother and me. I can guarantee, with utmost certainty, when they go afield that they will have someone at home watching for the lights of the truck to pull in the driveway and a warm meal waiting on the table upon their return.
I miss you, Mom. I will make sure I pack your grandson a raincoat, make sure he stays warm and take the time to listen to his tales of grand adventures. I know you will hear them, too.
Happy Mother’s Day to moms everywhere — thanks for all you do.