My people are on the move today! Not my family, although we still have a few that hit the road this time of year. But the kind of people I grew up with, sometimes worked with, hung around with, and married. The people that head for the hills (and the woods and the bayous) for opening weekend of deer hunting season.
I made a trip to Kerrville today to get some flooring material. No other time of the year will you see the traffic out this way like I saw today. And these people don't travel light! Every pickup bed has at least one big cooler - some high priced Yetis and some ancient Igloos. There are portable fence panels to keep the cattle away from the feeders; there are 4-wheelers, Gators and Mules, and duffle bags of camp clothes and boots. There are all variety of travel trailers on the road from expensive 5th wheels to ancient cabover campers.
You won't see any blinds or stands. Those were brought out weeks ago, back in September. Cedar trees trimmed to make room to slide them in; rolling secretarial chairs, the preferred seating for hunters, in place.
The pickup truck lines at the feed store I stopped at were out into the street, waiting their turn to be loaded up with deer corn. Most feed stores have some kind of hunter appreciation meal and open house today and the one I stopped at was no different. Tables loaded with food and the Meals on Wheels ladies selling baked goods on the side. In a mood of good cheer the hunters will often pay more than the asking price, helping out the local organizations. Some feed stores will have raffles and door prizes and all have sale items for today only.
These hunters have planned all year for this weekend. Some have saved and budgeted and carefully monitor their expenses. Some spend like they're rich, and many are. They all have one thing in common. They want to get away and go to the country. They want to hang out with friends and family that enjoy the same thing. They want to bring back some meat for the freezer. They want to sit around the campfire and tell stories. They want to make memories. And they're willing to make it happen, whatever it takes.
For more than half of my life this weekend has been a memorable one for me. Even back in the early days of our marriage and owning this place, back when I didn't go with Rick, there was still a flurry of activity that swooped me up and carried me along with it. If you're in a hunting family, you know what I mean. If not, you're probably wondering what I'm talking about!
This is my first opening day without Rick. He wasn't just a guy who went to work and did everyday things we all do. There was a whole slew of activity swirling around him, like Pigpen's little dust cloud in the Peanuts cartoons. When he walked into a room, especially this time of year, the whole feel of the room changed. As if it was charged with electricity, as if he brought a source of power with him. I could slip into a room without being noticed. When Rick walked in, stuff happened!
So when I lost him I lost everything that went with him. It's closing in on a year since he's been gone. The loss, the grief, the absence of my partner, the pain, it doesn't go away but I've become familiar with it.
And if there's a happy hunting ground somewhere I know Rick is there. And he's sitting quietly on the edge of a field, cedar trees at his back, a cold wind blowing from the north. Waiting.