By George Brown
It seems like the longer I’m retired the longer my bucket list grows. I try to be realistic about not adding items that are beyond my means or capabilities. For example, despite my heart’s desire, I doubt that I’ll ever be able to afford a hiking trip to Machu Picchu or to the Australian Outback.
Nor do I put items on my bucket list which I lack the mental or emotional capacity to accomplish. For instance, unlike George H.W. Bush, I cannot, I will not, and I shall not jump out of an airplane when I’m 85. The mere thought of doing so is enough to induce a myocardial infarction, which would almost certainly occur the moment I jumped from the plane.
But, barring my financial limitations and acrophobic tendencies, I subscribe to Walt Disney’s axiom, “If you can dream it, you can do it”, which brings me to the story of my most recent bucket list adventure.
Last Saturday I went to Bass Pro Shop to purchase a pair of Rocky Lone-Star boots (a must have for my auctioneer attire; but this is a bucket list story for another time.) While wandering through the aisles of testosterone laden fishing and hunting gear I happened to pass a display of tree stands or, as most hunters refer to them, deer stands.
There must have been a dozen stands to choose from but the Gorilla Silverback Stealth HX Climber is the one that caught my eye. I’ve seen some well-crafted homemade deer stands, but never anything like the Gorilla Silverback. I decided right then and there I had to add “Deer Slayer” to my bucket list.
A nice young lady who seemed to know more about hunting than any macho hunter I’ve ever known helped me navigate the options. An hour and a half later I left the store with my Rocky Lone-Star boots, plus everything I needed to be a successful deer slayer. My booty included thermal socks and camouflage long johns (yep, they actually make them); camouflage boots, trousers, shirt, jacket, cap, rain hood, and gloves; some camouflage face paint; a Browning Mark II Stalker Lightweight deer rifle with a Tactical 30mm rifle scope; 8 boxes of cartridges (I figured I would need some practice since I’ve never owned a gun); a Case-Ridgeback hunting knife (to field dress the deer); a GPS-compass; a pair of Bushnell 20x42mm binoculars; and last but not least, a nice Badlands camouflage backpack.
When I arrived home I found a note from Yvonne. “Gone shopping”, her note read, “Making stops at Goodwill and the Peppermint Pig Thrift Shop, trying to save a few dollars on some things we need for the house.” I suddenly felt a little queasy about the money I’d just spent, but I quickly dismissed the thought and sat down in the family room floor to open my packages.
I was so engrossed in what I was doing I didn’t hear Yvonne pull into the garage. I had just attached the scope to the rifle and raised it to my shoulder to have a look, when there she stood in the family room doorway dead aim in the crosshairs of the scope, with hands on her hips and a, “What in the hell have you done now”, look on her face.
She didn’t say a word, but her face suddenly went pale and through the scope I could see her chin begin to quiver. Giant tears, magnified by the scope, welled up in her eyes and started trickling down her cheeks like huge raindrops.
“It’s not loaded”, I said as I slowly lowered the gun. Then I reached for the Badlands backpack and said, “Look, I bought a new backpack.” I hoped this might make her smile, but it didn’t.
I quickly picked everything up and took it to the garage. Not another word was spoken the rest of the day, and not even a goodnight hug was given at bedtime.
On Sunday morning I got up early but instead of working on my column as usual I decided to take the Gorilla Silverback deer stand out to the oak tree in the backyard and see if I could hook it up. I also grabbed the Badlands backpack and put a small thermos of coffee and a peanut butter sandwich in it, thinking it would be fun to sit in the stand and have my morning coffee.
In no time at all I was perched in the stand, safely 10 feet off the ground and immensely pleased with my accomplishment. It was then that I realized the backpack, with thermos and sandwich, was still on my back.
“I can do this”, I thought to myself. I unhooked the safety harness from around my waste and carefully stood up on the foot rest of the stand. Cautiously I bounced my left shoulder up and down to slip the backpack off, but as I did I lost my balance and started to fall headfirst toward the ground. It happened so fast I don’t know how, but the other strap of the backpack slipped from my shoulder and caught around my ankle as I fell, jerking me to a sudden stop like a bungee jumper who had just leaped from the New River Gorge Bridge.
There I was dangling from the stand, strung up like a deer ready to be gutted and dressed in the field. I hung there for a minute gathering my thoughts. I couldn’t pull myself up, and even with my arms outstretched I couldn’t reach the ground. Then I remembered I had my cell phone in my pocket. I hated to do it, but I had to call Yvonne.
“Honey, can you come out here for a minute”, I said.
“Come out where”, she asked groggily, still half asleep.
“I’m in the backyard. Please just come out”, I said as nonchalantly as possible.
In a few minutes Yvonne emerged on the back porch. “I’m back here”, I called to her.
Spotting me hanging from the deer stand, she hurried to the scene and, I guess not surprisingly, started laughing so hard I knew she was going to pee herself. “Would you please help me down”, I asked.
She finally stopped laughing and looked at my predicament for a long moment. Then she said, “I’ll help you get down on one condition. You have to take all of that hunting stuff back, except for the backpack. You can keep it because it probably saved your life.”
By then I was well past the point of humiliation and anxious to get out of the tree before any of the neighbors saw me, plus I had pretty well lost my interest in becoming a great deer slayer. “Okay”, I said with resignation.
With that, Yvonne retrieved a stepladder from the shed and helped me get down. “You know”, she said, “The crack of your butt was showing as you hung there. I think I’ll call you my “white-tailed deer slayer”. The grin on her face was bigger than the tears I’d seen through the gun scope and I couldn’t help but laugh and give her a big hug.
George Brown is a freelance writer. He lives in Jackson Township.