102. Empty Chamber 2


I try not to overrun 1000 words per post, so I cut this entry in two hunks. I once watched an owl try to pick up a dead rabbit off a snowy single lane road one winter night. It was too heavy for the big bird. I watched in amazement as the owl flew back to its prize (after I had driven by it) and cut it neatly in two. It efficiently flew up into a nearby hickory tree to devour half a rabbit. So, here, my patient bloggos, is the other half of the rabbit tale.

Back to the cabin for lunch and a nap. Walking around with a gun can wear you out pretty easily, especially if you take a shortcut down a ravine that is just short of the easy road your Camp Commander is standing on. Well, of course, I took the scenic route deep into the woods and the ravine just got deeper. When I decided to plow up the sheer west side of the ravine, it was maybe 80 or 90 feet up at a stiff incline. I was breathing heavily and feeling my calves give birth to snake babies of pain when I summitted. Who was standing twenty yards away in blaze orange? Clark, Sargeant Major Camp Commander Maharajah Singh. “It’s a good thing that I’m standing here or you’d of walked all the way into Warfordsburg. Why you buckin’ me all the time?”

“Sir, I was not buckin’ you. I made a premature turn into what seemed like familiar ground. And then it wasn’t familiar anymore so I pulled off. At no time, however, was I lost, Sir.” We walked together up the easy road back to the cabin. Clark muttered, “You’re always ‘buckin me’.”

Later in the afternoon I went down past my original morning post, down on a point above where two creeks commingle into one. A tall ravine wall rose across the stream to my right. Another point jutted out from my left, across the other creek. Clark’s son had shot a nice buck there just three days earlier. I hunkered down next to a tree. I sat still for two more hours until just before 4:30 p.m. The hollow area where I was began to darken into shadows. Then down in front of me some shadows moved. I raised my rifle to look through the scope. Ahhh, a lovely doe was eating something on the ground. Two more were behind her. I knew that a buck might come in behind them, so I waited for the big guy. I took the safety off and tapped my trigger finger on the outside stock so I didn’t accidentally twitch on the trigger. Lo and behold, a magnificent buck stepped up and in front of the does. I looked at his antlers, which were partly obscured by brush and trees. I could only see two dark horns, but his body was big and muscular. ‘I’ll count points later’, I thought. ‘He’s a prize.’ I leveled the gun and put the cross hairs on his shoulderblade. ‘This is gonna be easy’, I thought. A sharp metallic “CLICK” was all that sounded after I pulled the trigger…no, no, no bullet in the chamber. Oh, no. The deer heard the click and my fumbling with the bolt and the bullet clip. By the time I had a bullet in the chamber, they were gone over the hill, wagging their white tails in my face like fourlegged burlesque dancers exiting stage left. I was dazzled and yet bereft. And other words that connote great angst. I had to laugh at myself. I’ve been walking around all day with an empty chamber. C’mon man.

Of course the deer didn’t come back. I slowly and dejectedly walked back up the slope to the tractor road back to the cabin. Bummer! And yet I remained dazzled by Bambi’s father out there. We had looked at each other briefly and both lived another day.  I was more joyous than disappointed with the outcome. I had another day to hunt, though it proved totally unproductive. Still, I have a story to tell and not just a dead deer. My Redskins won their football game that night, another positive prediction by the Deerdribbler. So all things considered, it was a good time, even for the deer.

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