My cousin Howard and I spent our teenage summers on a 50-acre wooded hill just behind his folks’ house north of Wausau, Wisconsin. We would hunt chipmunks and crows with .22 rifles and 16 gauge shotguns, fish in the nearby Wisconsin River and tramp around the woods. His dad built a platform for us that we hauled up the hill. It served as a floor for a 6 X 8 tent that we used as a “base camp” as well as an occasional overnight haven.
I woke up at 4:30 AM with the bad hip. It took me a Tylenol and until almost 6:00 AM to get back to a fitful sleep. At about 8:30, well past my normal rising time the right elbow woke me for the day. A cortisone shot scheduled for later that day should hopefully give some relief to that particular joint.
I limped out the back door with the dog and a light rain met us. Riley paused as if considering if he really had to go that bad. He eventually headed out into the drizzle to search for the perfect spot and I pulled up the hood on my oilskin jacket.
Instantly the sound of the rain on the hood brought me back to those soothing tent sounds on “the hill” some 50 years ago. There is nothing quite like the relaxing sound of raindrops on tent canvas as you squirm a bit deeper into a sleeping blanket. Now I know we weren’t sleeping on a king-size posturepedic with a temperpedic pad. Surely it must have been damp. Most certainly we got wet when we headed back down the hill to the comfort and warmth of a real house. But under my hood this morning I didn’t remember any of that. This morning I closed my eyes for a moment and tried to transport myself back to that tent on the hill where we would lie and talk about what we were going to do on such a rainy day. And then we would pack up and skid downhill on the wet leaves. As I recall, cortisone injections would not have been on the schedule.
A few hours later I returned from the doctor’s office with a totally numb elbow and a small band aid.
My wife told me she had discovered a dead chipmunk lying just outside our front door. I got a plastic bag and Riley’s poop shovel and very carefully scooped it into the bag.
As I walked back to the garbage, gingerly holding the bag by the very edge, I remembered the chipmunk hunting on the hill. After a successful shot we would pick them up with our bare hands, gently trim the tail skin close to the body (with our trusty hunting knives) and slide the tail fur off of the body. I can’t remember what we did with the damned tails.
Now hitting a chipmunk with a .22 rifle at 10 to 20 yards required a considerable amount of shooting skill. Once, when we were bragging about what great marksmen we were, Howard’s older brother Bill told us we weren’t a good shot unless we could hit them in the left eye. As luck would have it, a day or two later one of us hit one in the left eye. We picked it up, again with bare hands, and brought it into the kitchen where Bill, his wife and the kids were eating supper. We held it close to Bill for inspection and asked him if, “…this was good enough?” He yelled, we ran.
I reached the garbage can with my impervious plastic receptacle, carefully opened the lid and dumped the chipmunk, bag and all, without the remains ever coming into physical contact with any part of my skin. Then I went into the house and scrubbed for five minutes with anti-bacterial soap.
George Bernard Shaw said, “Youth is wasted on the young.” How true.