Troop 1, The Lower Farm, The Upper Lake, Dogtown Days, The Foreman, Felony Hill, Urijah, White Deer Black Bear

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$14.00 / Perfectbound
ISBN: 9781457521126
140 pages
Also available at fine
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Excerpt from the Book

A birthday cake with eighty-three candles is placed in front of Paul, who sits at the head of the dining room table with his younger brother, Tony, by his side. His daughters, Gail and Lynn, are wide eyed as their mother, Mariam, kisses their father and her husband on the cheek and says, “Happy Birthday, Paul”.The room is full of family and all together they sing happy birthday.

The birthday song comes to an end and with a huge intake of air into his lungs Paul tries to blow out all eighty-three candles. The rooting and chanting continue as he takes a second breath.The second round of blowing is successful and the family yells in unison for him to make a wish.Big Paul, as he is known to all, makes the same wish silently to himself that he has made on so many birthdays before. He focuses on his love, his passion, for hunting and his great desire to get a prize-winning buck.

It’s mid-November and he’ll be rising before sun up to make his yearly trip to his hunting cabin, about two hours north of his home, at a place called Maple Crest. Tony and Big Paul have owned this cabin for many years and its surrounding forest has provided them with many deer. Big Paul will tell you that for sixty some years he has been hunting in those woods, and he has taken a buck out almost every year.Paul’s reverie is interrupted when his wife asks him to cut the cake.Paul slowly slices the cake to complete the obligatory ritual at another fine birthday celebration.

The conversation over cake and coffee is light and at the end of the table where the two brothers sit the dialogue is purely shop talk, about hunting, the cabin and, of course, their choice of rifles.However, Big Paul is the expert on hunting rifles.The rest of the family is still talking over the low-keyed conversation of the elderly brothers, when Gail, Big Paul’s youngest daughter, asks her father what was his birthday wish.He smiles in a fatherly way, saying that if he tells her it won’t come true.Gail follows up saying that she’s pretty sure that he made the same wish he wishes every year.

“And what do you think that wish is?”

“That you get the biggest buck in the forest,”Gail says.

Big Paul winks at his daughter and smiles lovingly again.Gail knows that he’ll never say what his wish was, but she likes to play with her father to let him know that her wish for him is the same.

The birthday party guests, one by one, prepare to leave and each family member repeats his or her “Happy birthday” wish to Big Paul.Tony says he’ll see him at the hunting cabin in the morning.The girls clear the table and Big Paul retreats to his gunroom.His gunroom is located on the second floor of his beautiful home.He and his black Lab, Buddy, slowly climb the steps and enter the room. All four walls of the room showcase rifles; it’s a museum of blue steel and glowing wooden stocks.

Big Paul has well over two hundred well-preserved rifles, some dating back to the Civil War, and each one is in perfect working order. But only one of those rifles will make the trip with Paul in the morning.“Old Thunder”, his pet name for this rifle, dates back to the early 1950’s. He bought it new for $145.00, a Model 70, 270 caliber Winchester that is now nearing 60 years old.Big Paul stares at “Old Thunder” sitting in its cradle; it looks as though it’s never been used. He takes it from the cradle, puts the butt into his shoulder and looks with his left eye through the scope envisioning a prize-winning buck at the other end.

Big Paul stows his gear in his duffel bag neatly and carefully, as he’s done many times before, and walks it out to his Chevy pick-up.Thoughts of the family singing “Happy birthday” to him fade away; the weight of the age of eightythree doesn’t overshadow how he feels: alert and strong and longing to hunt.

His long-time-loving black Lab, Buddy, follows him back to the house and lies in front of the wood-burning stove as Big Paul loads it up for the night.He sits down in his easy chair next to his wife, Mariam, and thanks her for the birthday cake. She responds with a warm glance. She reminds him to drive carefully to the cabin and be safe in the forest hunting.He assures her he’ll drive safely and return home Sunday afternoon with a prize buck.He kisses her good night and goes upstairs to the bedroom.

Buddy always knows when Big Paul is leaving. Normally Buddy sleeps downstairs, but tonight he slowly creeps up the steps and finds a place on the rug at the foot of the bed. While lying in bed, Big Paul smiles to himself in the dark knowing Buddy will miss him and play sentinel to make sure no strangers enter the house. He tries to force himself to fall off to sleep.

Miriam stares at the TV as her mind drifts from the program she was watching and focuses on her life with Big Paul. Soon they’ll be married 61 years. He’s not a young man any more.She worked as a nurse at the local hospital on the cardio ward and is now retired for over five years. She worries when Big Paul goes off hunting, but there’s not much she can do about it. He always comes back unharmed and invigorated and with an abundance of venison.Buddy also knows that there’ll be something extra special in his bowl when his master returns.

Miriam presses the off button on the remote and makes her way upstairs. She slowly and quietly slips into bed and from many years of experience knows Big Paul is faking sleep.She knows how excited he is to go hunting- -he’s not eighty-three tonight, he’s a four-year-old waiting for Christmas morning.They both toss and turn all night, Big Paul from anticipation and excitement and Miriam from knowing he’s leaving and that she’ll miss him. Big Paul will rise before the four o’clock wake up call.