“That boy ain’t right!”
“Course he ain’t, you damn fool, he’s a turkey hunter.”
— Overheard at a local diner
Hello, my name is
XXXXXXXXXXXXXX and I am a turkey hunter.
First of all, this recent talk about the government digging deeper into mental problems and taking away guns from people they deem “off” scares me.
Because I’m a turkey hunter.
If you start letting some damn government official decide who can have a gun and who ain’t allowed just because of what they say are “mental problems,” well sir, then there ain’t no way any turkey hunter in the country will still have a shotgun.
Turkey hunters get out of bed in the middle of the night, day after day to brave mosquitos, chiggers, black flies, rattlesnakes, rain, wind, snow and sunburn to pursue a bird with a brain the size of an acorn that still manages to outsmart us more often than not. Try to explain how that’s not crazy to some guy behind a desk. Heck, I expect if the government gets to pick, most of us will be locked up someplace, “for our own good,” eating foul gruel and wearing a stained bathrobe with frayed cuffs.
Then again, maybe we could finally get a good night’s sleep.
I am sure when they start making up their rules, some pasty faced government bureaucrat will decide that obsession is a mental illness. Now, I ain’t saying I am obsessed with turkey hunting, that’s them doctor’s words, not mine, but I did hunt fifteen states one spring.
When I came home in June my dog bit me and my kids hid behind their mother’s skirts whimpering about the scary stranger in the kitchen. Finally the little one, the boy, who is a bit bolder, seemed to recognize me and said, “Wow, your beard got a lot longer since you went away.”
I didn’t take the time right then to explain, because there are some things children don’t need to know. But it was to cover the scars.
You know how it is with turkey hunting. You get up when most people are going to bed, and then you hunt hard all day, running up and down mountains, wading streams and swimming rivers (that one almost drowned me, but there was a bird gobbling hard on the other side) and walking all them miles. Now that so many states have seen the light and let you hunt all day, it’s a lot of hours from when you get up until you get a bird roosted and drive back to whatever Bates wannabe hotel you are staying in. So it ain’t like you are living a healthy lifestyle and getting a lot of sleep. You become prone to falling asleep at the oddest times.
Well, about a month into it we decided to pass on the usual gas station breakfast burrito and have a “good breakfast” at some greasy spoon diner in the next town. That made me late getting my coffee fix and on the way there, the caffeine withdrawals were hitting pretty hard. They said I was clawing spiders off the truck windshield, but I don’t recall any of that. Besides, I was driving, how could I steer and swat spiders at the same time? It just don’t make sense.
Anyway, after we parked I was running for the diner so as to be first to use the flush toilet. I was doing pretty good running with my new snake boots until I guess I fell asleep just before I got to the door. They said my face planted hard on the stairs, splitting my chin open in three places and knocking out a few teeth.
I woke up in the back of Bubba’s truck, with the hot, noonday sun fading my camo and covered with biscuits, sausage gravy and congealed blood.
I looked around and realized I was in the hotel parking lot. We had six of us in one room to save money but that anti-hunting @*%@# at the front desk would only give us two keys. So I pounded on the door, standing to one side in case one of them decided to put a load of #4s through for disturbing his sleep. Ain’t never happened, but it’s been threatened a time or two. Anyway, I guess I fell asleep again, because the next thing I knew I was inside on the floor with all my “buddies” standing around looking down at me.
“We were headed to the hospital to get you stitched back together,” one of them said. “But we stopped at the top of the hill by the old Jackson farm, because those biscuits and white gravy we bought you were getting cold. It’s a sin to waste them and you still were out so we were going to put them on the truck manifold to keep them warm for you. Wouldn’t you know, there was this bird gobbling down in the holler. You weren’t bleeding all that bad at the time, so we figured it would be OK to take a couple of minutes to go shoot him.
“Turns out that tom was henned up and wouldn’t come to our calls. You know how Pete thinks he is a master with that slate call and how mad he gets when a turkey ignores him? Well, he went and took it all personal again and wouldn’t leave until he shot that uppity gobbler.
“By the time we got back to the truck you must have rolled around and hit your face on the spare tire or maybe the tow chains you were lying on because your chin had started bleeding again. Nobody had any clean shirts left, so we tried to plug up them nasty holes with the biscuits and gravy. It worked too, stopped the bleeding and I think you only lost another pint or two.
“We took you to the hospital, but you wouldn’t wake up and nobody wanted to carry you into the emergency room because you were such a nasty mess.
“I guess them pretty nurses didn’t take us seriously because they would not come out into the parking lot with us to have a look. We tried real hard to convince them. Bubba even offered to take them all dancing tonight, but they just hid behind their desk and screamed for security. The one rent a cop guy was a deer hunter and was a pretty good fella. But his boss was a little jerk who hit Pete three times with that Taser gun.
“Anyway, after the cops and the TV crew left we was tired. So we came back to the hotel for a nap.”
“So, how long were the spurs on Pete’s bird?” I said.
With all the excitement I was bleeding again. Pete remembered that he had a sewing kit his wife bought with the unrequited hope that he would sew missing buttons back on his own camo. It took us a while to get the package open and Jimmy cut his hand with his knife while he was trying, so that ain’t all my blood on the carpet of the hotel. He needs to man up and pay some of the damage deposit too.
Once we got it open we tossed everything into one of those gizmos designed to sterilize mouth calls. Pete ran to the biker’s bar across the parking lot to wash his hands because they had soap and hot water. He was late because he tossed back a couple of beers while he was there to steady his hand for the sewing.
They had a color that matched my beard, but that stupid cotton thread kept breaking and before long Pete had quite a collection of unused holes poked in my chin skin. Finally somebody remembered some dental floss his wife packed because she thought he would use it (silly girl) and that worked real good to sew my face back together. Pete ain’t much of a seamstress, but at least I quit bleeding so I could get back to hunting.
When I got home a month later my wife said it was the eyes that scared the kids. They had been watching all them vampire and zombie movies and were pretty sure I had turned.
“Of course they are sunk in and pretty red, why wouldn’t they be,” I growled? “I left in early March and today is the second of June. If you don’t include the time spent passed out in the back of the truck, or the time after I blacked out in from lost blood in Taylor’s swamp later that evening, I can count the hours I slept during the entire trip on my fingers and toes with a few left over. At least I think I can, I am having a little trouble remembering lately.”
I think that maybe no sleep, too much caffeine and living on gas station food for months on end had done something to my faculties because I was having some trouble concentrating for more than a few minutes at a time. Except of course when there is an approaching gobbler. For some reason I am fine then. The doc calls it an “Unexplained Phenomenon.” I ain’t exactly sure what that means, but I figured it might help me shoot more turkeys if I could get me some more, so I asked at all the gun shops we passed but nobody ever heard of it.
“Honey,” I said to my wife after I got home, “Can you go by the Wal-Mart today and check with sporting goods to see if they have it?”
My wife just rolled her eyes, turned her back on me and walked out of the room. I could see she was either laughing or crying, but I ain’t sure which one it was.
She left before I could tell her about being in traction over at that other hospital.
(That’s covered in part two.)