While hunting wild game, a young man experiences a rite of passage. It’s like when a teenager notices his or her first pubic hair. The thrill of taking the life of a wild beast for the purpose of survival is similar to what Africans must feel when finding food after not eating for days or weeks. I hunted for years but never experienced this rite of passage. Hunting is a skill that all men must have in the family in which I was raised but I was born to be a gatherer, not a father.
I was rather feminine while growing up and not good with a gun. Buck with at least 12 points on their antlers have walked dead into my cross-hairs and I missed them completely. Sometimes I felt cursed because even my younger brothers had bagged their first buck years before I did.
Bob, my step-father, took me hunting for several years and could not throw me from his hunting nest– a tree stand, until I learned how to properly gut a deer. If the intestines are not removed from the animal shortly after its death, a risk of meat spoilage exists. I was not allowed to hunt on my own until I watched how to properly kill and gut a deer. I considered my step father and brothers primitive and a savage like. Even the handle Bob used on his C.B. radio was trite– “Bob Cat”.
Finally after years of freezing my balls during December hunting expeditions, I witnessed the shooting of a deer. Bob shot it. I refused to pull my gun on it. He slapped me hard as he often did and nearly knocked me from the tree we were in because I was such a sissy. He shot the larger of the two deer standing under our tree.
The doe fell to the frozen ground quicker that I ever imagined it would happen.
The smaller deer, obviously still a fawn that had lost its spots but not its love for its mother, let out a terrible cry. I didn’t even know deer made sounds. The cry sounded like that of a child screaming. Even Bob Cat had never experienced such a dramatic deer death.
Sadder still was how the fawn refused to leave its mother’s side as we climbed down the tree to fetch the food for our tribe. I cried terribly. Fortunately I didn’t put mascara on that day.
Bob Cat seemed upset over the ordeal too. The crying fawn touched his soft side just as it touched mine, but he tried not to show his emotions in the spirit of manhood.
“That meat will be very tender,” he proclaimed as he wiped a tear from his whisker after shooting his second deer that day. I admired him as if he were my real father because he didn’t make me shoot the crying deer.