It was a memorable day to end the opening day of deer season. The snow was falling silently giving the trees and leaves and ground a clean coating of white. It was as if someone was painting a Christmas card. The only thing you needed was a cardinal on a pine branch.

The day was not only memorable because of the beauty, it also represented the one year anniversary of my father’s passing. He would have loved to have been with me in the deer stand. He wouldn’t have said much but would have just sat quietly and taken in this awesome scene that Mother Nature was painting for us. I know my father would have loved it.

It would have been about six years since he shot his last deer. He passed away at 101 plus. Had he been with me today and had he seen a deer, I think he would have said, “Johnny, let it go.” And, had I seen a deer I would have done exactly that. The deer would live to see another day.

I think anyone over 50 finally begins to realize that life is temporary and that a day will come when it will be our last day to view what the Creator has made for us to enjoy. My father relished life and enjoyed his retirement years. I respected my father for many reasons but his attitude towards life and how to live it is one quality I respect most. I often wonder what he would say to me about my life and how I am living it.

This is what retreating to a deer stand all day does for you. You think a lot and wonder a lot. Probably most of what hunters think about has little to do with shooting a deer and more to do with feeling good about enjoying life and how lucky they are to be able to sit and experience the best of what life has to offer.

My father was a veteran of World War II where many men and women and citizens lost their lives. Perhaps the biggest advantage of being a veteran is that you learn what living and dying are all about. You learn that wars really don’t make any sense and should be avoided at all costs. We still haven’t learned that lesson.

So, you sit and you sit and you sit. You look in all directions. You take an apple from a bag of goodies. You might have your little propane heater turned on to take the chill out of the air. Being a little bit uncomfortable is part of hunting. You just learn to deal with it.

I mentioned on one other occasion in my column the lessons you can learn from a deer stand. You learn to be patient. You learn about preparation. You learn to look and listen. You learn to appreciate what my colleague, Blane Klemek, calls the great outdoors.

As much as I enjoy the preparations before opening day, the walk back to my car through the woods at the end of the day is equally enjoyable. As I was returning, I stopped every so often to look and listen. Ernest Hemingway said, “Look at things and listen and feel.”

All of your senses come to play when you are out in the woods but the greatest is probably just feeling. There is the touching kind of feeling and there is the emotional kind of feeling. Both come into play.

The feelings evoked while thinking about my father took me many places in the 70 some years I knew him. I relived a few of those while sitting in the deer stand and then during my walk. I thought about the many things he touched that I still possess like his jacket that I wore to the deer camp.

There is a photo I took many years ago showing my brother and father walking down a trail in the same woods where I was now walking. They are looking down being careful not to trip over a rock or branch and at the same time they look deep in thought, no doubt talking about the woods and the hunt and how many scrapes or rubs they saw. The photo is not real sharp and not too well in focus, which is good. It reminds us again that nothing is permanent and that the older we get the less focused life seems to be.

I often comment on how education adds to our knowledge and wisdom. Part of this wisdom is to acknowledge that we really don’t know too much about life and that life is a little out of focus. With education we try to get life more in focus, which, actually, causes us to realize that our brain is playing a trick on us by trying to understand what is not understandable.

I continued my walk and I noticed the track of a small deer in the snow. It went on for about 30 feet and then walked off the trail into the woods. It probably heard me coming. I stopped and looked hoping that I might see it. It could have been looking right at me and wondering what I was doing.

I think sitting in a deer stand makes us wonder more, at least it does for me. My father spent many hours in a deer stand, which helped him sort things out in life like spending more time outside.

I arrived back at the car, took off some clothes, got in and before leaving the woods I opened the window and took one last look. The woods was dark then but lit up by the fresh snow. I marveled at what I saw, thought about my father and returned to the cabin knowing that nothing could improve on that moment in time.

Riddle: When do you have acute pain? (Answer: When you have a very beautiful window.) Whether you live in the city or country, looking out your window can be as beautiful a picture as you could ever paint.

100 percent graduation

Thanks to the Northome businesses of: Northern Lumber, Bear County Chronicles, Northome Grocery, South Koochiching School Dist, Northland Progressive Inc., Scenic Rivers Health Service, North Itasca Electric Coop, Northome True Value, HRA of Kooch Co, Northome Community Church, North Woods Craft, we now have 326 businesses that support the 100 percent graduation movement.

You can help 100 percent of our children graduate by:

  • Helping them get involved in activities outside the school.
  • Helping them appreciate the great outdoors.

  • Helping them get involved in scouting or boys and girls clubs.

John R. Eggers of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.