Hunting season for savory white- tailed deer begins Monday in Pennsylvania. While housewives busy themselves with the tasks of shopping in malls and preparing sweet- baked cookies for the approaching Christmas season, men with newly grown facial hair, often referred to as ‘buck beards’, oil their guns while women careful construct bag lunches—turkey sandwiches and chocolate whoopee pies are stuffed in large pockets of insulated hunting coats. In the blustery cold of November in the mountains, the food along with thermoses steaming with coffee creates a little café of sorts in deer stands high up in trees.
All is peaceful in the rolling hills that surround little towns built in valleys. Sparkling holiday icicle lights adorn the edging frames of many homes. Up in the mountains under the canopy of naked grey tree branches in the dark of night, moments after the season’s first snowfall has blanketed the earth, all seems peaceful despite the fact that it is the eve of mass slaughter.
Decorative wind chimes made of metal and stone dance far below on back porches. The animals stir at the sound– blue tunes of a sad waltz. The deer, bedded down in soft down blankets made of freshly fallen oak leaves, turn long, spade- shaped ears in the direction of town and the music of the chimes. The animals notice the lights and through instinct, realize that when day breaks, nature will collide with man again.
Ringing as faint bells above swings that move like rocking chairs on summer evenings, autumn leaves gather on winds of the night and stack like sausages along abandoned black barns where long ago, before the man in orange, there were lives of family farmers whose wives baked in stoves built of heavy metal and fire and the men tended to cattle. Now the times seem silent to the deer—only the wind chimes and the far-away drowning moan of cars and trucks passing to and fro.
The fields are all bare with exception to power lines which cut through the heart of this heavily wooded paradise. Simple lives are lived here by all. Summers of gardening are long gone now—back when the deer helped themselves to the many fields of corn and clover. Tomorrow, in orange, the frost covered brown grasses of summer will be trampled by insulated boots of men, in search of game.
Nestled like a buck on Sunday night; held in the very palm of a grand valley, is the little town of Three Springs. Not long ago there, humming bird feeders made of hand-blow glass caressed morning Spring sunshine. The little birds, not much larger than wasps carried nectar here. Now, in the coldness of November, just the wind and the cold hem the slow stitch of time. Slippery woods for the hunters. This day is important. They eat so much meat.
Large industrial reams of waxy, white freezer- paper will unravel like that of an artist’s medium, preserving the sight of nature– loin, liver and rib. Wooden cutting boards inside cold, cement workshop garages are dusted then wiped white in lard. This is the surface where men with their boys stand elbow- to- elbow, holding razor sharp knives, drinking beer, carving carefully the carcasses of a delicacy that is much leaner and cheaper than beef.
The antlers although not edible, are the prized possessions to the bearded gods of high Appalachia. These people are modern civilization’s great hunter-gatherers.
Here is a link to the short story of the one that got away…