It is an early cloudy autumn morning in Upstate New York. The sun is just beginning to rise above the trees; all is peaceful. A single shot breaks the silence and the crunching of leaves. A man steps out from the shadows into the meadow where a doe lies lifeless on the ground. The man steps back into the woods and drives out on a four-wheeler. He straps the limb deer to the back and heads towards the road leading to a cabin up the hill.
My father hunts as a hobby. Along with my uncles and older cousins. My brothers and I however do not we rather go to practice at night than wake up early in the morning. Hunting is a commitment. My father wakes up around 4 o’clock in the morning to go hunting an hour away at our family’s cabin. During hunting season my father stays at the cabin to hunt every opportunity he can get, whether it is on his days off or right before he goes to work.
It is nearing the end of hunting season and my father finally gets a deer. That night while my mom was cooking dinner I asked him what he does with the deer after he kills it.
“After we’re done hunting (my father and my uncles), we place the deer in trash bags and drive over to my friend Bernie’s house.” Bernie has been a family friend of my dad’s for the past thirty years.
“Does Bernie than cut up the deer? What does he do?” I wasn’t really curious about it but I knew my dad would like talking about it, his face would glow when we would ask him about things he knew a lot about like hunting.
“Yea. He skins the deer and then cuts the meat the way we ask. Then within a few days I go and pick it up and he will have it packaged in butcher paper all ready to go.”
Although my dad said that he would pick it up, it didn’t mean that we would eat it. When it comes to venison my brothers and I would only eat it if there were nothing else left in the house to eat, no chicken no steak, no pork no nothing of the meat kind.
That was a few years ago and now my one brother and I are in college and my youngest brother is halfway done with high school. As many people would say my parents are becoming empty nesters. My mom began to going to the gym after work while my youngest brother, Erik, is at practice. My dad on the other hand has not really found a way to occupy his time. His day consists of work, eat and sleep, there is no meaning behind what he does, as if he is walking through the steps of everyday life.
One night after Joey and I come home from the gym, we walk into the house and inhale the grilling smell of meat. Our mouths were watering as we turned the corner into the kitchen to hoping for some steak or pork chops to be on the oven. However to our dismay we saw our dad standing watching his show from the kitchen as he stood next to a round plastic container that was making noises. “Hey guys, how was the gym,” my dad said as we entered the room.
“Fine,” my brother commented and went to the fridge out of habit to look for something to eat.
I watched Joey and then turned to my dad. “It was good. What are you doing with that?” I asked as I pointed at the round plastic thing. “Are you making venison jerky?”
My father’s face lit up and huge grin appeared on his face. “Yea I am. I’m actually making a couple different flavors.” He began to ramble on about the 3 different flavors he was making and how long it would take to for the meat to be fully dehydrated. I smiled and laughed as he told me about all the stuff he needs to do to make the jerky.
As he was telling me this all I could think about was his dad, my grandfather. My grandfather was one of those men was laid back in his later years and all he did was hunt and cook. During the hunting season my grandfather would always be cooking venison, whether it was venison sausage, fillet, or jerky. I remembered how my grandfather would send us home with these huge zip lock bags of jerky to share with everyone but we would eat them on the car ride home.
I laughed thinking about this but it also made me sad because my grandfather past away 5 years ago. My father and him were very close and my father was not there when he past away and my father was very distraught over it: my grandmother past away two years after that and I believe my father as not been the same.
Hunting for my father has always been more of a father-son activity for him and his dad. My father has always been portrayed as this big strong man that has no weakness, but in fact his one weakness is his emotions. He takes everything so personally. He is protective of his family like a bear and people may even say that he looks like one. I began to see these emotions more and more as I have become older.
The following day, I woke up early for work that started at 7. I walked downstairs from my bedroom, down the hallway to the kitchen. I looked around to see no one around except, for the baby of the family, our 6-month old kitten we had adopted earlier in the week and whom we had yet to name. He had followed me from upstairs and into the kitchen hoping for some snacks. As I walked towards the fridge the kitten was continuously cutting me off, causing me to trip and lunge for the refrigerator door. After gaining my footing I opened the fridge to look for breakfast. What I found was two large zip lock bags of jerky sitting in the shelves. My mouth began to water as I looked at the strips of dried meat. I reached for the bags but recoiled my handing reminding myself I could not eat it so early in the morning . I closed the fridge door. I turned and walked over to a drawer next to the sink a few feet away from the fridge, opened the drawer and pulled out a sandwich bag. I walked back to the fridge and stuffed several pieces into the bag and then continued on with my routine.
About ten minutes pass and the bell rings, indicating that someone opened the door. The front door slams shut and the floors begin to rattle as the footsteps come closer. I look up to see my father fatigued, but when he saw me a grin spread across his face. “Hey babe, you got work today?” he asked as he put down his Dunkin Donets coffee. He was dressed in his worn blue jeans and wearing a thick camouflage jacket, which looked like it weighed a hundred pounds.
“Yea, I have work at 8” I replied as I was packing my bag, “did you get any deer this morning?”
“No, not today, but I’m going to get one more before the season is over.” My dad gave a big chuckle, shaking his entire body. In the jacket he looked ten times bigger than he normally did, I didn’t think my dad could look any bigger or more intimidating than he already was at 6’3”. Then I thought he kind of does look like a bear if the bear stood upright. I gave a little snicker at the thought and continued to get ready for work. My dad goes to the fridge and grabs apiece a jerky from one of the zip lock bags.
“Did you try one of these yet?” he turns to me with curious eyes.
“No not yet but, I packed a couple for a snack later.” I pull out the bag from backpack and show it to him.
“Haha, ok, tell me what you think when you do try them.”
“I will dad.” I turned to finish packing, “Well I got to go to work now,” I give my dad a peck on the cheek and head out the door.
“Have a good day, I’ll see you later.” My dad yelled from the kitchen as I went out the front door.
As I get into my car and leave my house. The smell of jerky becomes overwhelming. I pull up to a light that is red. I turn to my bag, rip open the zip lock bag and grab a piece of jerky to chew on. I was ashamed that I ate it when I said I would save it but I was grateful that my dad took the time to make such a delicious treat. That’s all I could think about on my way to work and how I had to tell him how delicious they were…thanks dad, you’re the best.