BLANE KLEMEK COLUMN: 'The Little Man in the Orange Suit'
I often wonder what my children will remember about deer hunting as they grow older with families of their own. Will they recall with fondness and nostalgia those early years when they were true "green horns," still wearing their Minnesota Firearms Safety patches sewn on blaze orange stocking caps and still afraid of the dark woods? Will they pass on the tradition, their hunting heritage, to the youngsters they raise or mentor?
My own memories of deer hunting, from heretofore, are a rich mixture of anticipation, preparation, excitement, characters, and lore. From my earliest days and the hours I spent waiting impatiently for Dad, Grandpa, uncles, and older cousins to return home from Deer Camp just to hear their stories and see their deer; to the nervous eagerness and stomach butterflies I experienced as a young hunter on my own deer stand, alone, in the "Big Swamp," on cold and dark November mornings waiting for what surely would be the biggest buck in the woods; to that first deer at the age of 14 when my Dad, helping me find the downed animal, shook my hand when we found the fork-horn; to the numerous friends and relatives that have come and gone; and to the many deer hunting seasons that have thankfully followed since.
In my blessed life there are few experiences and few memories that are recalled with more pleasure or more gratitude than those times spent at Deer Camp and tromping the Deer Woods hunting deer. These are good memories of good times with good people.
An early deer hunting memory that I have with my daughter involved a walk to the garage after I had hung from its rafters a doe I had killed with bow and arrow on that October evening. She was barely a year old as I held her in my right arm and pointed with my left hand at the deer while explaining to her what it was and how it got there. She seemed interested enough, scarcely taking her eyes off of the deer the entire time we stood there.
But much has changed since that time. I'm older now. The little girl is a young woman with a child of her own, and my boy is a young man living far from home. And so far, since they were each old enough to go deer hunting with me, both of them have continued to share space with me from time to time in my tiny camper at Deer Camp making more memories for me — and them.
Memories of our deer hunts together are rich in their minds. Such experiences, as evidenced by the following prose written by my then 14 year-old daughter, tells the story of a time she sat in her deer stand whiling the hours away one afternoon several Novembers ago. I found the story, entitled, "The Little Man in the Orange Suit", in her notebook on the camper's table. She never told me about it, I just happened to notice it. It reads, in its unedited form:
"It was November 9th, 2008, the second day of hunting season. My dad and brother had just walked into the forest behind me to start their afternoon hunts.
"My stand is placed perfectly between two well-used deer trails. It was also placed perfectly for the cold north/northwest wind. I was placed right between two forests; one being only a small patch of forest and the other being a State Wildlife Management Area (WMA). I could also look upon half of my hunting team's eighty acres.
"Our eighty has three campers on the west side, two small patches of forest towards the east and west sides, and a trail that runs from the road, along our eighty, and into the WMA.
"It had been a mere five to ten minutes from the leaving of my dad and brother that a little man in an orange suit started his journey down the trail heading towards the WMA. This man was the one that did not belong in a world of brown, he was an eyesore, he was the first thing that you would see if you were to look south. I happened to look south.
"The little man in the orange suit was the most excitement that I had had all day. I watched him. I watched him intently. I watched his head bobbing up and down as he walked, his gun swaying back and forth as he maneuvered around mud and water. Then, I thought to myself, "This is the only living being that I am going to see for many hours. He is the only thing out there that I can watch. Will getting out the binoculars to identify him be too intense? Will he see me watching him if I do? If yes, maybe I should just stay the way I am; glasses, no binoculars.
"Then a sight interrupted my train of thought. The little man was almost headed into the WMA! I must enjoy his presence before I was left in the field alone again. I watched him as he took his time, without a care in the world, to walk to the WMA. But I then saw the little man in the orange suit walk into the forest, not to be seen again.
"I realized how much I missed him. What nonsense, I mean, I will see another person, right? Yes, there were other little men in orange suits. And why am I calling this man little, for if I were not in my hunting stand the man would be taller than me!
"But the eyesore in the brown world has passed, he is gone, vanished. I will be back to the only orange spot on our eighty now. All alone, just me."
Indeed, it's hard to say how my children will eventually come to spend, or regard, their times afield. At present all is well and good — as it should be, as I hoped for, as I'm grateful for.