Lapinel Arts

 

Story Archive

Farm Hunt 2004

 

Thanksgiving reunion on the farm seemed like a perfect way to connect with the family and allow our children to share my youth. Little around the town of Bovina had changed. Instead of the new developments and wider roads we found the same farms, some with minor modifications, some deteriorating, but little transformation.

The farm is different. The driveway is a little wider, the house is in a state of restoration with modern plumbing, windows and an inside remodeling. Even the trees reveal the passage of time. Saplings now stand wide and tall. The mature trees are now in the age of slow demise with fewer branches and lower tops, like a hunched older person with few teeth. Winter here is hard on the trees.

There is a new small outbuilding and better parking but the walk to the house is still muddy as it will always be this time of year. The house looks wonderful with its new skin yet the front door with its damage, gaps and mismatched handles remain the same. I still remember when those doors were new.

Despite the changes, the farm house still has its warmth and memories just as the old furniture stores our old treasures. Dad and Mom are older but the same in many ways. I do notice that they don’t walk about the property as much. Despite the upgrades, the house is still dependant on spring fed water. Today the spring line is partially clogged again as it slowly fills the tank, This deprives us of water periodically until I can find the spring house and clean it. The house now maintains an odd stability in this temperature. A new furnace and insulation changes the wide swings of temperature we were used to as Dad would feed the furnace with wood or coal.

It’s hunting season. I love to hunt and I loved hunting on the farm. Dad was a great mentor for the ways of hunting. Safety is so ingrained in me that I still follow most of his rules. The one that I no longer follow is the three bullet rule. When we went woodchuck hunting we were allowed only three 22 caliber bullets. The point, I think, was to make us careful with every shot and to prevent us from practicing or plinking in an unsafe way.

The way I cross a creek or fence; the way I hold from shooting in the innumerable unsafe shooting situations, come from Dad. Honestly….every time I go hunting in the wide open West I think of Dad. I think of Dad when I put my gun down or when I unload the gun before approaching my vehicle. I think of Dad when I break open my side by side shotgun when passing another bird hunter. Safety and respect are the two words that are always on my mind from his teachings.

It just happens to be big game season for deer now. While I don’t have a hunting license for New York I decide to scout the property. My daughter/hunter Lauren and I go on a tracking search of the property. The newly fallen snow provides for an easy history of the movement of the deer on the property. On the right passes a buck’s track, meandering, isolated and with large printing. To the back of the property we find two sites of entrance through the fence. One of the passages has the distinctive deer hair remaining on the barb of the wire. These deer converge and cross the brook to scavenge for the apples that are still remaining on the trees.

Lauren and I return to the house and I start my pitiful begging to have Dad hunt with me. Stubbornness is a family trait. After some assistance from Mom, he agrees…reluctantly. Sunset is 4:30 so I think that considering the movement of the deer I think getting to the brook by 3:00 would be fine. Dad looks good in his traditional plaid jacket and hat with his Winchester lever action rifle under his arm. I carry the binoculars. As if a reminder of days gone by, all we can find in the house are three bullets.

We don’t have to travel far but the feel is wonderful. There is something special about hunting with your Dad. We cross the back of the property slowly and I notice all the changes of the terrain. Even though Bovina New York is stagnant with regards to growth, the land is constantly moving. Rocks appear like new growing teeth, fences are leaning as the earth attempts to spit the posts out. Water has changed the lay of the land so that I can barely recognize where my brothers and I played as children. Old apple trees of reliability now sleeping as new trees emerge in unplanned areas.

Dad surveys the property as I do. I marvel at the power of nature, dad reflects on how to control nature. “Look at all this water; that damned trench isn’t working.” At this point Dad doesn’t seem to be hunting yet but as we finally approach the well tracked area by the brook all changes. We fall into a silence as I scan with the binoculars and Dad starts to study the area for deer. Dad occasionally moves left and I right as we watch and hunt together. It’s a limited hunt but the senses are turned on, we speak softly and we are part of the surrounding nature. Because we are standing still we create a pocket of human scent so I grab some soft old apples and smear them on my clothes. This became a ritual of my old hunts and the scent of the apple also touched me in that way.

Once, I spotted an antler and my adrenaline surged as I focused on this hidden animal behind the trees. I didn’t tell my Dad yet since I couldn’t see him clearly. As I focused and studied the buck it turned out to be a perfect alignment of a branch fork with a grey bush behind it…false alarm.

As it closed in on sunset we started talking more and hunting less. Finally, with no deer in sight we started our return home. We passed the marshy area and I held his hand to help him onto the rocks. Then, as if exiting a magical hunting zone, we climbed the terrain near the barn and suddenly the hunt was over. Dad called out for one of the cats that lives in the barn and we walked back to the house. I still watched for deer….always hopeful and planning for another hunt but Dad was back on the farm with his vision focused on the path home.

It was a short and wonderful successful hunt that I hope to repeat in the near future.