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Prime Time | Marilyn Heltzer: The hunt has begun

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Prime Time | Marilyn Heltzer: The hunt has begun
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

I marked the date in ink on the big desktop calendar that I keep on my kitchen counter. Most of the events and times are in pencil: dental and doctor’s appointments, lunch dates, other commitments, and birthdays of special people. The birthdays are in color.  

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Back when I was a working person, a calendar wasn’t as necessary as it’s become since retirement. The days followed a pattern: Pack school lunches, get the kids on the bus, leave for work, spend the day at a desk, time out for lunch, then home with maybe a stop at the grocery store on the way. Church on Sunday. Keeping track of kids who did grow up, found partners, moved away. And came back, but their comings and goings are now in pencil, like all other dates. Sometimes they come at the last minute, and everything else is erased from the calendar.  

My family is more important than ever. A year ago in the summertime, my husband Jim died. He suffered a lot. We do not say that death is a blessing, but it was, and his death is surely a part of this rambling story.

Earlier this summer, there was the big windstorm, and even though Jim didn’t know one end of a chain saw from the other, I knew that he would have known who to call.

Now, I live in the country. Deer hunting country. It is the two weeks of firearms deer season that have gone on the calendar in ink. You’ll be reading this about halfway through deer season that started at sunrise on Nov. 3 and will end at sunset on Sunday two weeks later. It’s a sure thing that on that first Saturday morning it sounded like hostilities had broken out when I left the house with the big black dog Sunshine to walk the half mile to get the paper. It’s a winding township road. Thanks to last July’s storm I no longer feel protected by the hills and trees that border the road.

The hills are still there. But the trees that would have stopped the humming rifle bullets are gone, bent over by strong winds. They met their final demise in a wood chopper, after being pushed into great piles by guy in a bulldozer who brought his crew in for the final ravaging of my protective woods.

By the way, Sunshine is a runner and were it not for the leash on the morning walk, she’d plunge into the woods for a two-hour exploration, to return, panting and burr covered. Or maybe these days, she’d chase a deer. I remember that the first deer season after we moved north, I heard a guy say, “If I saw a dog running deer, I’d shot ‘em.” I shuddered. This was a whole new culture.

And when we first moved north, I thought the deer were so pretty, lithe and limber, sailing across the road. I remember reading Bambi and sobbing when Bambi’s mother was killed by vicious hunters. Then I planted my first garden and discovered that as lettuce flourished in mid-June, I had established an Open Salad Bar for those same animals. It’s astonishing how quickly one can turn against God’s lovely creatures, AKA white tailed deer. The next year I had the garden fenced.

And it astonishes me that where I used to feel so protected I no longer feel safe. I muse on the possibilities as deer hunting approached: Maybe blaze orange, a new jacket that will announce to the world and any deer hunters that this is a person, a woman, and she should not be shot. Then again, bullets travel for a mile or more and some innocent guy aiming at a buck or even a doe could miss and there I’d be, bleeding on the road, trying to extricate my cell phone from my pocket to call 911 and hope that I had enough life left to describe just where I’d been downed. And if they got there in time or if I’d just been glazed, it’d make a good story once I’d recovered.

I also thought of taking the dog to town and walk where hunters do not go. Or I could check Sunshine into a kennel for the season, and abandon my walks. But that would be expensive and with my eating habits and no walks, I’d surely pork up.

It was a dilemma, and after several weeks of considering the possibilities I decided on high drama. And a blaze orange jacket. I bought the jacket, and every morning I go for a walk to get the paper. I’m grateful for Mondays when there’s no paper and the walk can be shorter. Maybe I’ll change my mind before deer season ends.

But probably not. High drama is just swell for the older person.

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