Most kids learn blue, red, and yellow first. Kamden learned green and orange. Not a surprise when your daddy is a hunter.
Tonight my four boys and I pile into the red Ford pickup and head to watch deer on the river. Kamden is two, Carter is five, Kade is seven, and Michael is 34. There’s a lot of testosterone at my house. The only estrogen here is from me and our black lab, Trey. We head to the Republican River in south central Nebraska—Carter’s Bridge to be accurate. Of course, my Carter believes that bridge belongs to him. He doesn’t realize the bridge was there first, and he was named after it.
“How’s my river doin’?” he asks Bill, Michael’s hunting guide partner who stops us in the middle of the river bottom road.
It’s a cool early October evening and the days are growing shorter. We know that means our time is limited. You see, when deer season opens, we share the daddy at our house with hunters from across the U.S. During bow season, Roy and Shelby will be here from Las Vegas. They are one of the first and most loyal customers of Hunt Shooters. They know the little boys well and check up on us throughout the year.
By the time rifle season opens, I will be a “hunting widow” and single mom for awhile. Michael leaves before the boys are even thinking about waking up and is gone until well after they are in bed. This leaves some official Dad duties–refereeing spontaneous wrestling matches, keeping score for football tournaments, and killing wolf spiders—to me. I can still manage to tackle and tickle all three boys at the same time, at least for this year. Just like wild elephants, these young bulls need to be put in their places, and sometimes just wrestling them to the ground is exactly what they need.
The boys take turns with Daddy’s good binoculars looking for bucks. Daddy is great at sharing the binocs but not so good at sharing the spotting scope. The deer are everywhere! Even Kade, the mastermind, can’t keep track of numbers. Kamden watches for fawns. He thinks they are all named “Baby Kamden” and cries when they run away from the diesel. I try to convince him that they are just playing hide-and-seek, which works for a little while. Carter and Kade clamber over each other trying to be the first to spot the next herd. A doe sprints across the road in front of us sending three boys into yet another frenzy of excitement. Michael just smiles.
As dusk approaches, we turn the pick up around and head home. Kamden is still worried about playing “hide-and-seek” with the fawn, and the big boys want to know if they will have time before bed to finish their football tournament. Michael turns up the radio as “Remember When” reminds me that these moments should be savored.
After eight hunting seasons, Hunt Shooters has as many hunters booked this year as they can handle. That is great news for Shooters, but bittersweet news for me. I love hearing all of the stories about the joys and pains of the hunts; Michael’s usually quiet personality beams with excitement and tales. I just wonder if those hunters on the “hunt of a lifetime” realize how much goes into making that dream a reality for them. But it isn’t running the house for a few weeks that makes me nervous. No, what scares me more is that I realize there will be a time soon when more than just my biggest boy will head out for the season. Kade will be the smooth talking, bargain driver who books the hunts, Carter will be the ever-patient guide, and Kamden will provide all the entertainment any visiting hunter could ever hope for.
As I write this I hear Michael’s refereeing voice say, “There’s no crying in football, boys!” Always teaching them the manly lessons in life. I hope they are listening closely, absorbing all their little minds can hold. Mom’s lessons aren’t always as simple.