There comes a time in every man’s life—and woman’s, too, I suppose, although I have no direct experience there—when an event takes place that completely changes our outlook, whether it’s hunting related or not, and whether it’s a positive or negative experience.
For some, I suppose, turning 40 years old is a big one. For others, it might be tagging a record-book bear or buck. And for most of us, someday, it will be the loss of a close friend or loved one. My grandpa—and hunting mentor—told me that’s called “life.”
For me, such an event happen a short time ago: My truck, my steadfast hunting companion, turned the big 100,000.
It took me by surprise, really. I wish I could say we shared the special moment together while driving to Manitoba during our annual bear hunt, or while sharing a beautiful sunset scouting roost sites of turkeys. But it happened—I think—during one of those monotonous drives to work or to the grocery store. Truth is, after all the time we’ve spent together, the hours of traversing through rough terrain and slow left-lane drivers, I missed the special moment.
And I’m not sure how I feel about all this. My once new and shiny friend, though strong as she ever was, is not quite so polished and sparkly. Small scratches and dents replace a once flawless complexion, and I can’t get that “over the hill” thought out of my head.
But truth be told, I love her more than I ever have. The finish has been faded only by time spent together, to destinations full of muddy tires and bloody tailgates. And I’d bet a tank of fuel I can recall each backwoods trail or hidden stump that produced those scratches and dents that represent memories of the times we’ve shared. The flooring is full of permanently imbedded dirt from our miles traveled together, and the driver’s seat is touched with sweat from epic victories and heart-crushing defeat. We’re as much a team today as we’ve ever been.
I must now force myself to look away from the rearview mirror longing for miles gone by, and instead focus on the bug-littered, slightly cracked windshield for many miles and adventures yet to come. This dance ain’t over.
And it’s with this disgruntled heart that I come to you. Apparently, “sharing your feelings” is something I need to work on, and I’ve been told group therapy is the best ointment for what ails you. In the words of Forrest Gump’s, Bubba, “You lean on me and I’ll lean right back up against you, that way we ain’t gotta sleep with our heads in the mud.”
Hunting weaves its way into every aspect of my everyday life, and I know I’m not alone—I know you’re out there. I see the buck and duck stickers on your vehicles in the middle of a traffic jam. I see you remove your camo hat before you walk into church. And I see the mud on your boots as we pass shopping carts in the marinade isle of the grocery store. Come talk with me.
I’ve been leaning on my truck for years, and now I’m asking you to help me keep my head out of the mud—and I’ll do the same, of course.
Keep your nose to the wind.