I was sweating myself a new skin. There, my brother, my cousin, my uncle, my father, and me, sitting under a tree that must have been a bush in another life. It’s branches low and thin, twisting its spiky, dark arms, arching away from the sun. Sharp leaves that made your skin itch when you brushed up against them. We were all panting, having walked up this God forsaken mountain since four o’ clock this morning. I wasn’t fit to begin with, and we had to walk down the muddiest, steepest hill I had ever seen. One wrong move could send you free falling into the deep trenches at the bottom. When you sank your feet into its surface, the ground made this horrible, slurping, sucking sound, and it popped when you tried to wrestle your foot way.
The river was cold, frozen, slippery, fast, and deadly. Taking great care, I slowly treaded the shallow dark waters, concentrating hard, sweat drenched my brow, trying not to fall.
Then the climb began. I was covered in so much thick clothing, it was a wonder how I could move my arms. I felt ridiculous, like that little boy in ‘A Christmas Story’. On my back was a bright orange back pack loaded with water bottles, two sandwiches, and a ridiculous amount of candies. On my shoulder, I bore the weight of a heavy, hot, rifle. Its wooden stock was smooth and polished. The long black barrel was shiny and new. I carried it with a sense of pride. I was the youngest person there in our camp, and the only girl. But that wasn’t the only thing I was proud of.
It had been my first hunting trip, my first time kicking it with the big boys. My first time feeling sharp coldness in the early mornings and hearing nothing but shushed hurried whispers from my party. Months of preparation. Months of staring at the stupid orange target and shopping at Bass Pro Shop for hunting gear. Months of preparation and training and targets and scores upon scores of bullets, until finally I was here. Here in the Wilderness. Here in the real thing.
There we were, sitting on the filthy, bumpy ground where we saw it.
Its horns stood out among the tall bushes covering the hillside next to us. Its body was a golden brown color, and it walked in a slow, dumb fashion you would see on a cow. Instinctly, my father hoisted me up and I flicked the safety switch on my rifle.
Everything was silent. The only thing anybody could hear was the twitter of a bird, the wind whooshing through the leaves, and the faint footsteps of that golden forkie on the hillside at least two hundred and fifty yards away. No talking. Not even breathing.
The adrenaline was pumping in my body, my heart thump-thump-thumping so hard I was amazed the forkie didn’t scamper away from the earthquake that had erupted in my body. I breathed, I paused, I steadied. And waited. My father’s whispered instructions were miles away. And then I saw it.
A damn doe. She was jumping, running, dashing up the hill with incredible speed. And my forkie would follow. It’s nature. But he was MY forkie. I gave a breath and pulled the cold trigger.
I saw him go down from the scope. He just dropped like a ton of bricks. Things seemed to be going in slow motion up until now, but all I knew next was that I had dropped my gun and turned around so fast that all everyone could do was stare in confusion.
Things were a blur after that. I remember my older cousin and brother repeatingly congratulating me, and my uncle laughing his ass off. And my father, with the biggest smile on his face that made my heart swell up with joy. I was walking on air.
The only thing that could top that day was that night, when we walked back to camp and told everyone that we didn’t catch anything either. Accept me. It was my first day there.
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